10/05/2005: A Values Test...
The first *Test* of some competing "conservative values" for Justice Roberts in this case:
The Right to Die [Op-Ed from the NY Times] makes this point:
"The John Roberts Court will hear its first high-profile arguments today, when the justices take up a case involving doctor-assisted suicide. Oregon law allows terminally ill people to take lethal drugs to end their lives. But the Bush administration has tried to override this law by threatening to prosecute doctors involved in such cases. The Supreme Court should make it clear that Oregon can allow doctor-assisted suicide.
Oregonians voted in favor of the Death With Dignity Act in 1994, and three years later they voted against repeal. The Oregon law allows terminally ill people who are likely to die within six months to receive drugs to end their lives. When John Ashcroft, a longtime opponent of assisted suicide, became attorney general in 2001, he issued an edict that doctors who prescribe drugs that are used to commit suicide can be prosecuted under the federal Controlled Substances Act. The state of Oregon and a group of terminally ill patients challenged this Ashcroft directive and won.
This case nominally involves two hot-button issues: the right of terminally ill people to end their lives, and the allocation of power between the federal government and states. But the Court of Appeals was right to resolve it more simply, through a careful interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act. Mr. Ashcroft claimed that the law gave him the power to overrule Oregon's assisted suicide policy. But when Congress passed the act, it clearly intended to prohibit ordinary drug abuse, not to set out a federal policy on assisted suicide.
Opponents of assisted suicide have never been able to persuade Congress to outlaw assisted suicide directly. In the absence of a Congressional law, Mr. Ashcroft had no authority to interfere with the decision of Oregon's voters.
In his zeal to stop assisted suicide, Mr. Ashcroft, a self-described legal conservative, turned his back on two principles that are sacred to legal conservativism. First, he refused to strictly, or even accurately, construe a Congressional statute. Instead, he inserted meaning in it that did not belong there, giving himself power that he should not have had. Second, he ignored conservative dogma about deference to the states, especially on matters like regulating medical practice, a core state concern.
The impact of today's case will be felt beyond Oregon. The Bush administration's position has discouraged other states from enacting assisted suicide laws. But the Supreme Court should make clear that Oregon, and all states, have the right to allow terminally ill people to end their lives with a maximum of dignity and a minimum of pain."
Karen on 10.05.05 @ 07:38 AM CST