Friday, October 25, 2002

Can't they do better than this?

Surely no Bush administration official gets more undeserved flak than John Ashcroft. Such as this from Robert Prather:
Oregon voters passed an assisted suicide law via referendum -- twice -- and John Ashcroft, with no constitutional basis to do so, has tried to revoke the medical licenses of the doctor's who prescribed the lethal doses. The first judge to review the case over-ruled Ashcroft and it's on appeal.
The article in question says this:
The Death With Dignity Act, which allows a physician to prescribe a lethal dose of barbiturates to a terminally ill adult patient, was first approved by the voters of the state of Oregon in 1994. Assisted suicide opponents mounted a vigorous campaign against the law, delaying its implementation until referendum in 1997, when it passed again.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration immediately stepped in and sought to overturn the law on the grounds that it violated the Federal Controlled Substances Act, which prohibits the use of certain drugs except for a "legitimate medical purpose"—which, the DEA said, did not include aid in dying. Then-Attorney General Janet Reno, however, overruled the agency, and the law was allowed to remain in place.

Under Attorney General John Ashcroft, however, all of that changed. In November 2001, the attorney general took time out from cracking down on terrorists to crack down on physicians who prescribe lethal drugs to the terminally ill. He authorized the DEA to revoke their licenses.
There's nothing controversial about the idea that causing death is a "legitimate medical purpose"?

Listen, I'm all for state's rights. IMO people should see the Civil War as a gross abuse of federal power too. But surely there's a better case for dumping on Ashcroft than this.

Prather offers this:
John Ashcroft has stretched every conceivable aspect of the constitution since his term started. The assisted suicide law is presumably being challenged using laws based on the interstate commerce clause. What assisted suicide has to do with interstate commerce is a mystery to me.
The first sentence suggests that we are dealing with something other than objectivity. As for the rest, if the Reason article cited is accurate, it doesn't seem so farfetched that Ashcroft is totally within the bounds of the law. As Prather's cite shows above, the initial DEA determination predates Ashcroft. Can the DEA revoke medical licenses? Does the DEA report to Ashcroft? If so, then what is left to say? IMO the US District Court judge who made the decision (who is based in Portland, Oregon) was the one who overstepped his bounds, and my money says Ashcroft wins in a later round.

Remember all the crap Ashcroft heard during confirmation? How Democrats claimed that he would impose his own views upon the law, especially wrt abortion clinics? It looks to me like he's enforcing the law just as he pledged to do when he was confirmed. If there's something wrong with the law, then let's fix the law.

Prather continues with this:
The 4th amendment means nothing to him as well given his support for the TIPS program. I want the guarantee that I'll be secure in my person, papers and effects. I don't want it compromised for the War On Drugs™ and I don't want it compromised for the war on terror.
The War on Drugs long predates Ashcroft, and it's his job to enforce the law. And he inherited the cowboys at DEA, BATF and whatever you call what we have at the FBI, who have all sorts of institutional and civil service defenses against housecleanings. And given his late confirmation, the unending personal attacks and the subsequent frenzy after 9/11, just when was he going to be able to do that?

Let's hear something positive for a change. Who would have been better than Ashcroft? What should he have done differently that was consistent with the responsibilities of his job? And what is needed to clean up these rogue organizations?

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