Ashcroft’s Parting Shot.

You knew he couldn’t go quietly. Here’s a parting shot at the voters of Oregon and their decision to allow for physician assisted suicide. Let’s all hope Justice Rehnquist is still unavailable when this issue is reviewed.

Oregon’s law, known as the Death With Dignity Act, lets patients with less than six months to live request a lethal dose of drugs after two doctors confirm the diagnosis and determine the person’s mental competence to make the request.

Is it me or does this seem like a logical and compassionate option for the terminally ill. Why do fundamentalists prefer that the terminally ill suffer for their remaining days? This option allows for a person to decide the way in which he leaves this world. The terminally ill are allowed to bypass the inevitable pain and suffering and leave their loved ones behind with a dignity not available to those who are required to deteriorate and painfully perish. Where is the compassion in not allowing for this option?

The Bush administration has argued that assisted suicide is not a “legitimate medical purpose” and that doctors take an oath to heal patients, not help them die.

The patients that the doctors are treating cannot be helped. They are terminal; the only help the doctor can give is relief from the inevitable pain often associated with terminal conditions. Most often, the relief this option provides not only effects the patient but their loved ones as well.

Living in Florida I have seen first hand how much the Bush family opposes this issue and for the life of me I cannot understand the problem. Jeb Bush, through his unconstitutional “emergency legislation,” believes that he saved the life of Terri Schiavo, a brain damaged woman who has been kept alive by life support and feeding tubes for 14 years. What life has he saved? Considering how logical physician assisted suicide seems to me, I cannot understand how Oregon can be the only state that has voted to allow it.


18 thoughts on “Ashcroft’s Parting Shot.

  1. I am a proponent of of Death With Dignity for many reasons. I see it as also a fiscal choice. Why leave your family with devastating debt? With the mess that health care has become I have seen too many families lose everything because of the exorbitant associated costs.

  2. The best practical (vs religious) reason I’ve heard for opposition to such laws is that, safeguards aside (and in concern that such safeguards might be further weakened in the future), it still makes it easier for Old Grampa Frim to be done in by his uncaring offspring.  Which may, in fact, be true, though it does not seem to me to be a sufficient reason, vs. the pain and suffering that such a law would help avoid.

  3. Good point ***Dave but as long as a system could be brought about so as not to diminish safeguards it could be viable.

    It is akin to the ease with which people could be committed to institutions back in the day. It is not so easy any more.

  4. Personally, I don’t think any doctor should be involved in the process. It would be more appropriate to have an unrelated, third party act on behalf of the patient. Doctors have an oath “first, do no harm” and for a patient to ask a doctor to help them commit suicide calls into question that very oath. Bringing in a third party eliminates the pressure placed on the physician and leaves the odds and ends to someone who could specialize in this field.

  5. Neo, that’s pretty much how it works with trying to commit psych patients today. There’s a Guardian ad Litum appointed to represent the individual to help assess their needs.

  6. And then again, you could run into something like this:

    Druggists refuse to give out pill

    For a year, Julee Lacey stopped in a CVS pharmacy near her home in a Fort Worth suburb to get refills of her birth-control pills. Then one day last March, the pharmacist refused to fill Lacey’s prescription because she did not believe in birth control.

    “I was shocked,” says Lacey, 33, who was not able to get her prescription until the next day and missed taking one of her pills. “Their job is not to regulate what people take or do. It’s just to fill the prescription that was ordered by my physician.”

    Some pharmacists, however, disagree and refuse on moral grounds to fill prescriptions for contraceptives. And states from Rhode Island to Washington have proposed laws that would protect such decisions.

    Mississippi enacted a sweeping statute that went into effect in July that allows health care providers, including pharmacists, to not participate in procedures that go against their conscience. South Dakota and Arkansas already had laws that protect a pharmacist’s right to refuse to dispense medicines. Ten other states considered similar bills this year.

    The American Pharmacists Association, with 50,000 members, has a policy that says druggists can refuse to fill prescriptions if they object on moral grounds, but they must make arrangements so a patient can still get the pills. Yet some pharmacists have refused to hand the prescription to another druggist to fill.

    In Madison, Wis., a pharmacist faces possible disciplinary action by the state pharmacy board for refusing to transfer a woman’s prescription for birth-control pills to another druggist or to give the slip back to her. He would not refill it because of his religious views.

    Some advocates for women’s reproductive rights are worried that such actions by pharmacists and legislatures are gaining momentum.

    The U.S. House of Representatives passed a provision in September that would block federal funds from local, state and federal authorities if they make health care workers perform, pay for or make referrals for abortions.

    “We have always understood that the battles about abortion were just the tip of a larger ideological iceberg, and that it’s really birth control that they’re after also,” says Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood (news – web sites) Federation of America.

    “The explosion in the number of legislative initiatives and the number of individuals who are just saying, ‘We’re not going to fill that prescription for you because we don’t believe in it’ is astonishing,” she said.

    Pharmacists have moved to the front of the debate because of such drugs as the “morning-after” pill, which is emergency contraception that can prevent fertilization if taken within 120 hours of unprotected intercourse.

    While some pharmacists cite religious reasons for opposing birth control, others believe life begins with fertilization and see hormonal contraceptives, and the morning-after pill in particular, as capable of causing an abortion.

    “I refuse to dispense a drug with a significant mechanism to stop human life,” says Karen Brauer, president of the 1,500-member Pharmacists for Life International. Brauer was fired in 1996 after she refused to refill a prescription for birth-control pills at a Kmart in the Cincinnati suburb of Delhi Township.

    Lacey, of North Richland Hills, Texas, filed a complaint with the Texas Board of Pharmacy after her prescription was refused in March. In February, another Texas pharmacist at an Eckerd drug store in Denton wouldn’t give contraceptives to a woman who was said to be a rape victim.

    In the Madison case, pharmacist Neil Noesen, 30, after refusing to refill a birth-control prescription, did not transfer it to another pharmacist or return it to the woman. She was able to get her prescription refilled two days later at the same pharmacy, but she missed a pill because of the delay.

    She filed a complaint after the incident occurred in the summer of 2002 in Menomonie, Wis. Christopher Klein, spokesman for Wisconsin’s Department of Regulation and Licensing, says the issue is that Noesen didn’t transfer or return the prescription. A hearing was held in October. The most severe punishment would be revoking Noesen’s pharmacist license, but Klein says that is unlikely.

    Susan Winckler, spokeswoman and staff counsel for the American Pharmacists Association, says it is rare that pharmacists refuse to fill a prescription for moral reasons. She says it is even less common for a pharmacist to refuse to provide a referral.

    “The reality is every one of those instances is one too many,” Winckler says. “Our policy supports stepping away but not obstructing.”

    In the 1970s, because of abortion and sterilization, some states adopted refusal clauses to allow certain health care professionals to opt out of providing those services. The issue re-emerged in the 1990s, says Adam Sonfield of the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which researches reproductive issues.

    Sonfield says medical workers, insurers and employers increasingly want the right to refuse certain services because of medical developments, such as the “morning-after” pill, embryonic stem-cell research and assisted suicide.

    “The more health care items you have that people feel are controversial, some people are going to object and want to opt out of being a part of that,” he says.

    In Wisconsin, a petition drive is underway to revive a proposed law that would protect pharmacists who refuse to prescribe drugs they believe could cause an abortion or be used for assisted suicide.

    “It just recognizes that pharmacists should not be forced to choose between their consciences and their livelihoods,” says Matt Sande of Pro-Life Wisconsin. “They should not be compelled to become parties to abortion.”

    Your thoughts?

  7. It may seem surprising to some, but I do support the right of pharmacists to, as they say, “step away” and refuse to fill the prescription personally.  But they should not “obstruct”—that is, actively prevent the patient from obtaining what has been legally prescribed to her.  That should be punished to the greatest extent possible.

    And I would encourage patients to boycott pharmacies where the pharmacist picks and chooses which prescriptions to fill.  If a pharmacist refused to fill prescriptions for Viagra because he suspected it would be used for adulterous sex, you can bet your sweet bippy there would be a huge outcry.

    You can follow your conscience, but it may not mean you’ll be able to make a living at it when it’s at the cost of your clientele.

  8. Doctors have an oath “first, do no harm” and for a patient to ask a doctor to help them commit suicide calls into question that very oath.

    I don’t think helping a terminally ill patient die at the time and in the manner of their choosing in any way violates the “no harm” part of a doctor’s oath.  A patient would know best what harm would come to themselves and their survivors from a long, drawn out period of suffering (and the financial burden) before their condition finally kills them. 

    There’s a difference between “harm” and “hurt.”  This concept was made clear to me in a discussion about the part of the Wiccan Rede which says, “Harm none.”  To put it simply, if you have a sliver in your finger, pulling it out will surely hurt… but leaving it in is likely to cause harm in the form of infection and even gangrene.  I’d have to look at the question of doctor-assisted suicide in the same way.  If the hurt of helping someone die prevents further harm to the patient or his/her family, there’s no violation of the oath.

    As for pharmacists who feel they have the right to impose their moral views on the people they’re being paid to serve, screw them!  They need to either do their goddamned jobs and keep their views to themselves or find another career.  I wonder if the groups that support medical workers refusing to offer medical treatment that runs counter to their moral views would show the same strong support to, say, an OB-GYN who refused to refer a childless couple to a fertility clinic because s/he felt that it was clear God didn’t mean for these folks to have children of their own.

    I’m sickened at the hypocrisy of those people who are vehemently opposed to birth control, yet see no problem with fertility treatments that often result in litters of medically fucked up children who more often than not end up being subsidized by taxpayer dollars.  Sure, the fundies don’t want their taxes to help pay for abortion or birth control… well *I* don’t want my taxes going to a lifetime of medical treatment for the quintuplets Mr. & Mrs. Goodchristian had because they decided they know better than God and sought medical intervention to “correct” His “mistake,” rather than trust Him (as the infallible, omnipotent being they believe He is) and his plan for them, and choose what one would think is the MORE Christian course, and ADOPT a few of those thousands of unwanted, unaborted babies that need homes.

    Oh yeah, I forgot that most of those unwanted, unaborted babies aren’t WHITE…  rolleyes

  9. Ashcroft just wants to ensure that God has all the time that she needs to perform a healing miracle or speak to the dying person’s heart before he leaves this world.  Wouldn’t it be a shame for someone to take their own life only to get to heaven and find out God was going to heal them the very next day? [/sarcasm]

    As a pharmacist, if you’re the only one there that can fill the prescription, you are obligated to fill it or seek employment elsewhere.  I’m all for a pharmacist to pass it off to another co-worker if they have a moral problem with the prescription but many towns in the US only have one pharmacy and having them override a doctor’s opinion is a dangerous road to travel.

  10. A comment on each subject.
    That pharmacist is like the big insurance companies. In other words they feel that they know more than your personal physican and can over ride his/her treatment methods.

    On Death with Dignity.  It is strange that this post should appear on 11/11/04.  32 years ago on this day I buried the father of my children.  He died a long and painful death of cancer.  How long he suffered privately I can’t say because he refused to see a doctor.  I can tell you in February of 1972 he was hospitalized.  In July of that year Cindy was born.  In September of that year Les started school and during this whole time his pain was escalating.

    In October he went to the hospital for the last time.  His last three days of life they continued blood transfusions which just leak out as soon as they were administered.  He died on October 8th and I regret every extra day I allowed them to prolong his suffering. 

    Should there be Death With Dignity?  Damn right!  People should have the right and their loved ones should be educated as to what the procedure means and how to help the patient obtain the treatment.
    Remember the saying—If you love me let me go?

  11. I support assisted suicide as long as it has a lot of safeguards. However, the country with some of the most liberal laws concerning such procedures – Netherland – has already seen numerous cases where the patient was pressured to commit suicide (sometimes very subtly, maybe even without the pressuring person conciously intending it) and some cases where there was no way to really establish the wishes of the person wanting to die.

    But I really suspect that many of the opponents to assisted suicide do not really oppose it as a way to protect the helpless. It seems more like it conflicts with one of their narrow dogmas…

  12. Hey, we’re all dying. Every single day is a day closer we all come to the grim reapers final reward. Doctors that refuse to participate in performing the “deed” will surely emerge, but remember folks that this is America and if there is a buck to be made off a legal medical procedure then you can bet your ass in the next few years there will probably be something like a drive thru death mart or some such. As for pharms that won’t fill Rx based on some moral objection I say 1) Fuck them and the moralistic high horse the rode in on! and 2) As a consumer don’t by ANY drugs, food, candy etc from that pharmacy ever again. If you live in a one drug store town—then move.

  13. I wonder how pharmacists would feel if we all let our personal ethics rule what services we would or wouldn’t provide.  (time for sarcasm…)

    Airline pilots who refuse to fly because they do not feel safe with certain passenger’s on board.

    Car salesmen who refuse to sell cars to overweight people because they think everyone should be in shape.

    Food vendors who refuse to sell pork products to people of Jewish decent, despite whether the potential customer is a practicing Jew or not.

    Medical doctors who refuse to give medical advice or help, and instead tell the patient to pray and be healed.

    Rescue workers refusing answer when on-call because it is the Lord’s day.

    Tech Support that refuses to honor your warranty because he/she is repulsed by your dependancy on Microsoft.

    Librarian who refuses to allow anyone to check out fiction books because they are a waste of brain-cells.

    News anchor who refuses to read the news ‘cause his mamma told him “If you can’t say something nice….”

    Hotel manager who refuses to rent a room because the couple could be cheating on their possible spouses.

    O.k. I’m done ranting now.  My point is if someone has fundemental disagreements with an aspect of their job that is stong enough to motivate them not to do it, they should seek other employment.

  14. (James posted while I was writing.)

    If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

    They knew when they went to pharmacy school that they’d have to deal with these things, so they should have to deal with them.  The pharmacists aren’t being forced to pour the pills down women’s throats. I think that if it’s legal, then they should sell it.  They can pursue morality on their own time. 

    How dare they presume to know better than a doctor?  Besides, how can they even know what the pills are for?  What if she’s taking them for hormonal reasons? 

    IMO, my rights end where another’s begin and vice versa.  So the pharmacists don’t have to take the pills themselves, but they can’t presuppose the same morals for others.

    Pharmacies are not the place for activism. 

    I mean, if we let that be the precedent, we’d have car stereo salesmen refusing to sell anything but Kenwoods or Sonys or whatever because they’re morally opposed to cheap stereos.
    Or what’s to stop them from tweaking dosages here and there? 

    As for the insurance companies, I’m inclined to think it’s more about money than morals.

    On the original topic (sorry…):
    I think Momma and OB hit the nail on the head.  Thank you for sharing that, Momma.  Sometimes the best help a doctor can give a patient, the help that they need, is letting them/helping them take leave of the world and their pain. The only argument against it is a religious one, and I don’t think that should hold sway in the govt (though sadly it does).  I believe it is our right to choose whether or not we live.  Too many people don’t get to decide, like the soldiers who have died in Iraq, for instance.

    Quality of life is sometimes more important than life itself.
    Of course, I’m not surprized that Asscroft doesn’t know this since it’s pretty obvious that he doesn’t enjoy life.  Why else would he make everyone else so miserable?  Man needs to get an intern, or maybe just a lot of booze to loosen him up, maybe take a crap once in a while.

  15. Well this is not exactly a parting shot. This case has been awaiting appeal since the 2002 Oregon court decision.

    In that earlier decision the Judge scolded Ashcroft for “attempting to stifle an ongoing, earnest and profound debate in the various states concerning physician-assisted suicide.” Also he criticised Ashcroft for “firing the first shot in the battle between the state of Oregon and the Federal government.”

    There is a possibility of that the Supreme Court will adopt the Pledge case route whereby the Supreme Court would not decide on Physician-Assisted Suicide but rather decide the case based on Federal and State powers.

  16. Another thing I’m oh so fond of pointing out to my overtly conservative family and their friends whenever they say something along the line of “If we support Stem Cell Research then we’ll be supporting the abortion of baby fetuses O NOES!!!” is that those ‘Christian’ septuplets you’re so fond of gossiping about….know that a large by-product of their inception was massive amounts of fertilized embryos that are on ice and NEVER going to be used.  Yeah, shut the fuck-up bitch and learn the facts before you go spouting what your politicians have told you, because you should know already that regardless of political party affiliation, they’re gonna tell you what they think you want to here.  Stupid people.  angry

  17. “Sure, the fundies don’t want their taxes to help pay for abortion or birth control… well *I* don’t want my taxes going to a lifetime of medical treatment for the quintuplets Mr. & Mrs. Goodchristian had because they decided they know better than God and sought medical intervention to “correct

  18. People like this falsely increase the birth rate in America.  I wonder if it would still be 2.1 if we took them out of the stats.

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