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Ashcroft off base.

Byline: The Register-Guard

The attorney general of the United States has an enormous job that demands rigorous managerial efficiency. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has done John Ashcroft a big favor by pointing out that he's wasting his time trying to hold Oregon doctors criminally liable for prescribing drug overdoses, as allowed by the state's twice-approved Death With Dignity Act.

The federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that Ashcroft's "unilateral attempt to regulate general medical practices historically entrusted to state lawmakers interferes with the democratic debate about physician assisted suicide" and ``far exceeds the scope of his authority under federal law.''

Ashcroft's efforts to thwart Oregon's voters were embodied in the "Ashcroft Directive," which declared in 2002 that suicide is not a ``legitimate medical purpose.'' His directive reversed a 1998 opinion by U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and allowed the Justice Department to prohibit Oregon doctors from issuing any lethal prescriptions on grounds that the drugs did not qualify as medication under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Not so fast, said U.S. District Judge Robert Jones in Portland. Jones ruled in 2002 that the Controlled Substances Act does not give the federal government the power to say what is a legitimate medical practice. In fact, regulating and licensing doctors generally has been the sole responsibility of the states. Congress only intended the Controlled Substances Act to prevent illegal drug trafficking by doctors.

The Justice Department appealed, and on Wednesday a three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit ruled 2-1 that Jones was right. Rather than bothering with further appeals, the Justice Department should drop the matter and use its time to improve its fingerprint analysis and protect America from terrorists.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Editorials; Appeals court affirms assisted suicide in Oregon
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:May 27, 2004
Next Article:Let Rein remain.

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