Health care link of the day: Chest Pain by Mark Steyn
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was wrong to rule against Ashcroft in his attempt to stop Oregon doctors from prescribing controlled substances in order to kill people. (See the full story at Wired or Reuters.) The federal government has the power under the Controlled Substances Act to regulate (wait for it) controlled substances. This isn’t a grey area like medical marijuana in which the perceived medical need for a drug conflicts with society’s perceived need to keep that drug out of the wrong hands - killing people with barbituates is not a medical use at all. As long as there’s a Controlled Substances Act the feds are well within their rights to (do I hear an echo in here?) control substances.
Should there be a CSA in the first place? Probably not - at this point it seems to be doing more harm than good. In some countries you can go to a pharmacist and get any drug you want, and that seems to work out OK for them. So if the 9th Circuit had struck down the CSA altogether because it was interfering with the natural right of Oregonians to kill one another, I wouldn’t have complained. I’m all for striking down federal laws when they infringe on states’ rights. I’m assuming, for the sake of argument, that Oregonians killing other Oregonians is not a violation of the Constitution itself - though of course Oregonians crossing state lines to kill, say, Idahoans would be a federal issue.
But since there is a CSA, the good people of Oregon should obey it like the rest of us. The CSA need pose no problems for their assisted-suicide laws - barbituates are far from the only method of killing your fellow Oregonian. Obviously these people need to read more murder myteries, or at least more history. Socrates did the dirty deed without a prescription, and Roman ladies had a graceful way with a scalpel that anyone can imitate, regardless of age, health, or medical degree. The Conquistadores wiped out a continent with common household germs. More humane modern methods include the guillotine, the electric chair, and starving the patient to death. A creative physician has a million ways to kill without violating the CSA.
In fact, there’s no reason to involve a physician at all. Assisted suicide is a contradiction in terms - it’s not suicide unless you do it without assistance. If Oregonians want to legalize suicide, they should just go ahead and do it. None of the rest of us will complain that there are fewer Oregonians as a result, I promise. Suicide is an unprosecutable crime, anyway. Now I admit that it might take a little forethought and reading to find a painless method of offing oneself, but since the idea of euthanasia is to put terminally-ill people out of their unbearable pain, really they only need to find a method at or beneath their current level of pain.
The right to kill yourself is an inalienable right in that you’re the only one who can exercise it, and - mankind being as frail as we are - no one can stop you. Unless you’re incarcerated, it’s relatively simple to do yourself in. (Residing in a hospital full of sharp scalpels and federally controlled substances doesn’t count as incarceration.) So this business about assisting suicides is nonsense - that’s just killing people. Needing an accomplice to commit suicide is a sure sign you’re not serious about the death thing. Being an accomplice to someone else’s death is killing (though not necessarily murder), and it’s wrong if you’re a physician. Physicians should do no harm.
But the formerly good people of Oregon are still welcome to go around killing one another if they want, so long as they don’t involve physicians. I recommend a new profession to handle the situation, one analogous to Nurse Practitioners: Death Practitioners. Since there isn’t enough euthanasia business to support my DP’s (yet), I think they should have a sideline doing abortions. Abortion isn’t a complicated procedure - back in the 70’s women used to vacuum each other’s uteri for fun - and there’s no reason for physicians to be doing it. If a complication results of course a doctor should be called in, but physicians should do no harm.
In short, if you want someone killed - yourself, your terminally ill relative, or your fetus - you should kill them yourself. Don’t look to the medical profession to sanitize your acts…or your laws.