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Assisted suicide law first case for Roberts

Groups from across the country met at the Supreme Court today to protest both sides of the issue. The question at hand deals with a law in Oregon, the Death with Dignity Act, that permits physician-assisted suicide.

As of now, physicians in Oregon are permitted to prescribe lethal doses of medicine to terminally ill patients who have less than six months to live. Many members of the Bush administration, mainly Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, oppose this law and question its validity, claiming that it violates the Controlled Substances Act. The State of Oregon argues that each state has the individual choice on medical issues.

Members of the group Not Dead Yet also are against the law. According to their Web site, NDY was founded in 1996 as an organization against euthanasia following the acquittal of Jack Kevorkian.

The assisted suicide and right-to-live subject has gained considerable national attention since the Oregon law was passed in 1994, mostly because of the Terri Schiavo case, in which the government intervened to re-insert Schiavo’s feeding tube.

NDY was very active in the Schiavo case and according to their Web site had the support from more than 20 other organizations.

Opposing organization My Life, My Death, My Choice argues that the law is in place to protect the doctors, not the patients, according to the Associated Press. With a subject that consists of such gray area, opinions on both sides are valid.

Allowing someone who is terminally ill the right to decide their own fate is comparable to someone with a living will on life support. If it is stated that they want to perish without the assistance of life support, that must be honored.

Conversely, those who do not support the law claim it justifies anyone with a disability. They fear that this could lead to even more stringent laws regarding assisted suicide, using Gonzales v. Oregon as a backdrop for support.

Ultimately, this provides a unique initial challenge for newly appointed Justice John Roberts. Roberts, appointed chief justice on Sept. 29, will hear the case along with as many as six of the nine Supreme Court justices.

Since the inception of the law in 1994, only two doctor-assisted suicides have occurred. Wherever the Supreme Court lands on this issue, this case sets a precedent of where our country will stand on terminally ill patients and assisted suicide for years to come.