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Senior Issues

Reality Check:
2002 Promises Substance, Not Just Promise


December 31 2001

Right to Die

In March, a federal court in Oregon is expected to decide whether a state law allowing physician-assisted suicide violates federal statutes. In November, Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft declared that it is illegal to dispense or use controlled medications to hasten the death of a terminally ill patient.

The Ashcroft decree calls for the revocation of prescription licenses for doctors who use drugs to help a patient die. It is the latest blow to the right-to-die movement, which seemed to be gaining strength through much of the 1990s, and the implications go far beyond Oregon. "This is the most serious challenge we've faced in the history of the movement," said Ryan Ross, a spokesman for the Hemlock Society, which has campaigned for patients' right to design their own end. "The Ashcroft decree threatens to wipe out what we've worked for across the country."

The court has blocked implementation of the directive until arguments can be heard from the state and the U.S. attorney general's office.


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