By Earl Wettstein, President of Arizonans for Death with Dignity (a branch of Hemlock USA).
President Bush’s approval rating has peaked somewhere around 88% and will now begin a decline toward his Failure to Get Re-elected Day in November of 2004.
With his decision to unleash Attorney General Ashcroft on the Oregon Death With Dignity Law, he has gutted not only that law, but his presidency. He just doesn’t know it yet.
It’s too bad. He had us going with him. He was in full sail, playing all our patriotic strings, going after the bad guys in Afghanistan, doing his job with a solid crew of wartime aides making him look good, fulfilling all our passions to right the wrongs of September 11th, and to do it probably for seven more years. But now he’s blown a sail, stepped in the dog do (sic), shown himself to just be another politician after all.
I think it will help cost him his presidency come next election.
Because it signals not only his administration’s deep right-wing leanings, but also is likely the first of many similar actions he will now take while his popularity is at this all-time high. I imagine his advisors in The White House – Andy Card and others – are saying “Let’s go for it now boss, while we have the support of the American people!” It’s not going to get by us, guys. You’ve simply reminded us why we were skeptical in the first place.
The Oregon Law that Bush and Ashcroft have gutted was twice approved by the voters of Oregon. Now the good but dying patients of Oregon will go back to their pistols in the mouth, the ropes tossed over a beam in their dens, the pickup truck filled with gas, purring away in their closed garages as means of self-deliverance.
The Oregon law, in the three years it has been in effect, was used by only 70 people as the means to their own peaceful end; as the means to their escape from a death of pain and suffering. It was twice okayed by the voters there, the last time by a 60/40 margin, and started helping people in 1997. It basically allowed terminally ill people to have their doctors legally prescribe a lethal medication which they could use, when the pain and suffering get too bad, to end their own lives. There are safeguards in the law that assure that a person who was clinically depressed could not end their lives in this manner. One had to be diagnosed – by two doctors – as terminally ill without hope of recovery to acquire the medicine.
Many who got the medicine never used it. Just the knowledge that they had it was enough to help them through the nights. It was a comfort for them.
But now Bush has unleashed Ashcroft to authorize Drug Enforcement Agents to identify and punish doctors who prescribe federally controlled medicines to help terminally ill patients die. Licenses to prescribe drugs would be revoked. As a result, Oregon doctors will stop prescribing for the terminally ill for fear of losing their licenses to prescribe. Even pain relief medication will likely not be prescribed, with doctors afraid that the medications might induce death, thus jeopardizing the doctor’s prescribing license.
Oregon officials, fighting to protect the voters of their state from this federal power grab, have sought an injunction to prevent the DEA from acting on the Bush/Ashcroft decision, and have asked the Oregon Health department to not supply the names of prescribing doctors to the Justice Department.
A law suit challenging this ruling is likely to wind up in the Supreme Court. I think Bush/Ashcroft will be defeated there, even by this conservative Supreme Court, as this is clear challenge to state rights, and a strike at the constitution.
I believe that our President, our Attorney General, and our Justice Department should be prosecuting people who kill innocent US citizens – as they were up until now – and not be pursuing compassionate doctors who help Americans with terminal illnesses who only wish to hasten their own imminent, painful, and inevitable deaths.
What Bush and Ashcroft have done with their decision to go after Oregon’s law is what we do not want the radical Islamist’s to do – that is to impose their own religious views on us. In this case a religious view about the right to life that they wish to impose on others who do not agree.
It is this very problem that has caused the national Hemlock Society to develop end-of-life choices for their members that are within the laws, but help terminally and critically ill patients find peaceful deaths
Earl Wettstein is a Tucson resident, playwright, retired marketing executive, and the President of Arizonans for Death With Dignity, the statewide branch of The Hemlock Society. He can be reached toll free at 1-877-535-3600.