Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Ashcroft's at it again... Can't let Oregon be Oregon. Kristof has a good piece today on the Death With Dignity law...
Choosing Death

John Ashcroft and other members of the Christian right have desperately tried to eviscerate Oregon's Death With Dignity law, on the ground that it undermines the sanctity of life...

My hunch is that the right to die will become a hotter issue over the next decade or two as baby boomers confront their own mortality. Boomers have transformed every stage of life they've passed through, and they will surely transform our way of death as well.

That's what Oregon is now pioneering. I'm an Oregonian myself, and like most people here I was ambivalent when the law was first proposed as a ballot measure in 1994. Opponents argued that the terminally ill would feel pressure to commit suicide so they wouldn't be a burden to family members.

That seemed a reasonable argument at the time, but such abuses do not appear to have occurred. Oregonians seem increasingly content with the experiment — partly because of its limited scale. The most recent figures, from February 2003, showed that at least 171 people had hastened their deaths since the law took effect in 1997 (although many with terminal illnesses start the process by getting a lethal prescription so they have the option if they want it).

All in all, the Oregon law has provided the world with a model for how to offer dying people a real choice about how they should bid farewell to the world...

Mr. Ashcroft and other critics have so far lost in their efforts, in the courts and in Congress, to block the Oregon law. But instead of moving on and letting Oregon proceed with its pathbreaking experiment, the Justice Department asked a federal appeals court on Monday for a new hearing.

The Oregon law deserves to be upheld. It forces us to examine the question of what is special about human life. The answer, I think, is the autonomy and dignity inherent in our individuality — in making hard decisions for ourselves and determining our own destinies. Oregon honors that vision of what is sacred about life.