Skip to comments.Federally Enforcing Right to Life
Posted on 04/22/2002 7:28:24 AM PDT by humbletheFiend
Euthanasia is currently legal in Oregon because citizens there have approved physician-assisted suicide in two separate referendums. But is illegal under federal law for doctors to abuse the prescription power by distributing drugs for illegitimate, non-medical purposes.
United States Attorney General John Ashcroft has challenged the legality of the dispensation in Oregon of lethal drugs, saying it was not a legitimate medical practice. In particular, he issued a directive, by his authority as chief law enforcement officer of the United States, faithfully executing the Controlled Substances Act by preventing doctors from issuing lethal prescriptions.
Last week, the federal government's attempt to enforce this law against the manifestly non-medical purpose of killing people was rejected by federal court in Oregon. It is an occasion to recall both the fundamental evil of euthanasia, and the stake America has in ending this immoral and unethical practice in Oregon.
The Declaration of Independence states plainly that we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator not by human choice with certain unalienable rights, foremost among which is the right to life. If the Declaration of Independence states our national creed, there can be no right to take any innocent human life, not even one's own, for this is to deny the most fundamental right of all.
The right to life is unalienable. That means we may not justly trade it away for some perceived improvement in our material condition, as we might sell the title deed to our house or car. If we kill ourselves or consent to allow another to do so, we both destroy and surrender our life. We act unjustly. We usurp the authority that belongs solely to the Creator, and deny the basis of our claim to human rights.
If human beings can decide whose life deserves protection and whose does not, the doctrine of God-given rights is utterly corrupted. Euthanasia treats the right to life as though it were dependent on human choice, rather than on the Creator's eternal will. That is why euthanasia is always the unjust taking of a human life and a breach of the fundamental principles of our public moral creed.
By our American creed, therefore, physician-assisted suicide such as is currently legal in Oregon is a violation of the very foundation of all our civil rights.
In judging the actions of the United States attorney general, we must keep this fact clearly in mind. There can be no question on which the attorney general of the republic has a more solemn obligation to act with principled energy than on the Declaration issue of the unalienable right of the innocent to life itself. The Constitution, and all federal law, has the single and unifying purpose of constituting a federal regime of ordered liberty by which the people, in their God-given equality, govern themselves in dignity and justice.
The Controlled Substances Act prohibits physician dispensation of drugs for medically illegitimate purposes. It is a federal law, which means that its execution in the lives of the citizens of the nation is the responsibility of the federal government. Attorney General Ashcroft bears the weight of that responsibility and has rightly made the judgment that physicians cannot dispense federally controlled substances in order to end the lives of patients.
Can the voters of the state of Oregon decide for the federal government that killing people is a medically acceptable purpose?
The attorney general and the state of Oregon cannot simply agree to disagree on the matter. The attorney general has a federal law and a solemn duty to enforce it. That means that he, on behalf of the sovereign federal power, must distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate medical uses of controlled substances.
In the current situation, a physician who is dispensing a lethal dose to his "patient" may say, "I am using this controlled substance in a way that conforms with the proper understanding of medical practice." Attorney General Ashcroft can point to common sense, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States and disagree, saying, "Killing your patient is fundamentally opposed to the proper understanding of medical practice, because it is a profound injustice." The physician then points to the Oregon state euthanasia law, passed by the people of that state, and repeats that what he is doing is medically legitimate, according to the people of Oregon.
The question we face is whether the attorney general of the United States should form his understanding of the meaning of federal law, on a question bearing on the life or death of innocent citizens, by consulting the first principles of reason and American political justice, or by deferring to state referenda.
The legal question is clear enough. The interpretation of federal law cannot be dictated by state authorities. The interpretation of federal law is the business of the federal government, and the people who are competent to overrule federal authorities on such questions are the people of the whole nation, not of one state.
But euthanasia is no ordinary legal question. It goes to the heart of the nature and purpose of legitimate self-government. The State of Oregon is attempting to dictate to officers of the federal government an interpretation of federal law that violates the most basic natural and hence most essential civil right of all: the right to life. The state of Oregon is insisting, to speak plainly, on federal acceptance of the establishment of a new "peculiar institution."
But the original "peculiar institution," slavery, had already taken illegitimate root at the time of our national founding, and a painful prudence dictated that it be temporarily accepted lest the good of self-government itself should prove impossible. Oregon's new "peculiar institution" is a new cancer threatening the well being of the nation. Attorney General Ashcroft is right to refuse to yield the national conscience to this morbid revival of the right of states to repudiate the Declaration principle of human equality.
If you want to start killing people, hire a hit man. Should this practice be established, it will end up with Doctors killing anyone whom someone pays them to kill, then saying that the victim requested it, and qualified under the law. I prefer my hitmen to work for the Mob, not at a hospital.
Amendment X: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
A) You seem to hold doctors in very low esteem, equating them with paid hit men.
B) You refuse to allow a terminal patient the ability to manage his own demise.
I really wouldn't wish upon you the experience of a terminally ill relative begging for relief from pain and the indignities associated with not being allowed to die. (Yes, they revived him even with a written DNR order.)
The main opposition on the human level seems the fear that once established the mercy killing might be ill-used and eventually be used on the very people whos judgement is currently asked and who, in their youthful denial of death, want to "protect" themselves from being "killed".
This reminded me of a conversation I had a long time ago with my Black co-worker. The discussion was that Black people evolved longer in the natural environment and therefore are phisically stronger, with better bodies. He would not allow this conversation grow - it was racist, it might lead to conclusion that Blacks are different from Whites and therefore not equal. It did not matter to him that the idea had some merit and deserved an analysis - to him the idea was a taboo as it could be used to segraate. He was probably right as it was his experience.
Both ideas seem to meet the same challenge - one would rather let thousands of people suffer than risk the possibility of the mis-use. What it all means is that the current society is not yet ready for moral decision of such kind.
What I find remarkable is that Dr. Keyes does not make reference to any constitutional provision as a source of Federal power for the statute (Controlled Substances Act) and then doesn't even concern himself with the particular language of the statute.
Instead, he apparently thinks it enough that the U.S. Government is protecting the "unalienable" right to life that is described in the Declaration of Independence. That approach may work for him today on this issue, but he might find it troublesome if others were to view the U.S. Government's power to include the protection of the "unalienable" "pursuit of Happiness" that is also in the Declaration of Independence. This Declaration of Independence approach to the scope of Federal power is way beyond both FDR and Roe v. Wade.
So, I guess you would abolish the FDA and let each state make their own decisions on matters relating to medical drugs and interstate commerce.
You do owe him an explanation of the basis for your rights. If not from the Creator then is it from the will of the majority or what each differing individual says it is?
The "right to life" is retained by the people, not the State, since it is individuals who have lives. You would have a better claim that States not allowing physician assisted suicide are violating the Constitution.
Constitutionally, the federal government lacks a general police power. Because of this, the federal government doesn't even have jurisdiction over actions universally recognized as crimes such as murder or rape, and there certainly is no right to commit those things.
Furthermore, rights are not violated when an individual gives consent.
If you enter a person's house without their consent, the crime is trespassing.
If you have sex with another person without their consent, the crime is rape.
If you take another's property without their consent, the crime is theft.
If you kill another person without their consent, the crime is murder.
A person most certainly retains rights against trespass, theft, rape and murder, however once consent is given, the right is not violated.
Ironically, in the name of rights, the state is depriving a person of their right, the right to consent.
My take on the purpose of the article is to show that even the most esteemed conservatives can sound like liberals where states rights are concerned, so long as the central government is doing something they happen to like.