Other campus: Assisted suicide not a case for federal courts (U. Pittsburgh)

By The Pitt News

(U-WIRE) PITTSBURGH – In Oregon, terminally ill patients with only a short amount of time left to live can choose to die with dignity.

The legality of this choice is now being determined within the chambers of the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Roberts has come out as a vocal supporter of the federal right to prohibit physician-assisted suicide, and Justice O’Connor may retire before a decision is reached, so the outcome of Gonzales v. Oregon is uncertain.

Oregon’s assisted suicide law – which states that doctors may prescribe lethal doses of morphine, barbiturates and other painkillers – does not break any federal laws. The majority of Oregon’s citizens value their state-given right to die; they have had a law to this effect since 1997. The Court has a responsibility to consider the wishes of the communities affected by its decisions; Oregon, as a community, wishes to keep its law.

Even though it has been nearly a decade, only 208 people have qualified for the prescriptions. Clearly, doctors have not been running around handing out barbiturates to anyone who desires them.

Roberts is raising concerns about potential loopholes in the laws that could pave the way for interstate steroid abuse, among other things. While the government certainly has a vested interest in preventing citizens from abusing dangerous or illegal drugs, the medications in question do not fall under that category.

The case has been presented in a roundabout fashion. Arguments are based on whether individual states or the federal government has the right to control medical prescriptions, rather than on whether or not patients in very specific circumstances should have access to lethal doses of legal drugs.

Just as proponents of introducing intelligent design into the classroom tiptoe around the religious implications of this supposedly scientific theory, opponents of Oregon’s law are not acknowledging the fact that suicide is so controversial largely because so many religions frown upon it.

This law does not impose any sort of undue moral burden on anyone; it simply provides an alternative to messy home suicides or weeks of pain to those who want it.

As Americans, we all lay claim to a great number of possessions. Our own lives, though, are the most valuable. It is not the job of the Supreme Court to strip us of the right to take our lives – or our deaths – into our own hands.

Staff Editorial

The Pitt News (U. Pittsburgh)