As previously noted here
, John Ashcroft has tried to halt Oregon's "Death With Dignity" experiment by threatening action against any physician who participates in assisted suicide by writing a prescription for a drug that appears on the federal government's list of controlled substances. His legal theory appears to be that the exception allowing physicians to prescribe controlled substances within the practice of medicine allows the Attorney General to determine what constitutes the practice of medicine, and physician-assisted suicide doesn't fit his definition. A federal appeals court recently ruled
that what constitutes "the practice of medicine" is something for the states to decide, not the Attorney General, and if Oregon says it includes PAS, then that's the end of the matter.
On Monday, Ashcroft's Justice Department sought reconsideration by the appellate court, which prompted a thoughtful op-ed piece
by Nicholas D. Kristof in today's N.Y. Times
. Even if you (like me) thought the Oregon law was a bad idea, this is worth reading. I admit that I've come around on this subject because of the Oregon experiment, and Kristof highlights important aspects of that experience quite well.