EDITORIAL: Assisted suicide laws should be permitted

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear challenges to the assisted suicide law in Oregon. It is named Oregon’s Death With Dignity law and allows terminally ill patients to obtain lethal doses of medication from their doctors. The Death With Dignity law took effect in 1997, and no other state has such a law.

The Bush administration is challenging the law on the grounds that hastening someone’s death is an improper use of medication. Such improper use violates federal drug laws, the administration says.

Supporters, however, say a favorable ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court could lead other states to enact similar laws.

The members of this editorial board support assisted suicide in cases where patients are terminally ill. Furthermore, we encourage the federal government to leave the issue of assisted suicide to the states to decide. If the voters of Ohio, for example, do not support assisted suicide, the state should follow suit. The same applies if the voters do support assisted suicide.

Assisted suicide can be better than hospice or nursing home care for some patients, such as individuals in great amounts of pain. An ideal structure for permitting assisted suicides would include: ensuring patients are rational through psychological consultations, having patients sign release forms and only then allowing them to physically ingest lethal doses of medication.

Our opinion relies on the understanding that some medical cases are beyond hope and cure. There are terminally ill patients who will not see an end to their pain and who have a right to have that end through death if they so desire it. Family members and friends who wish to prolong a person’s life when he or she is living painfully and reluctantly are selfish. It seems peaceful and respectful to allow a rational individual to take his or her life if that person truly sees it as his or her best option.

Obviously, making an assisted suicide law a state issue would require state taxpayers to support the enforcement of the law. This editorial board believes this drawback is worth the benefits of the law, and it further asserts that the issue of assisted suicide should not be a matter upon which the federal government and the courts meditate.

This is a matter people should decide, as it could affect individuals they know. Most people have known a man or woman who had cancer or another terminal illness.

Thus, as the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments this week, this editorial board stands firmly on the principle that whether a terminally ill patient may take his life with his own hands is a matter that should be decided by voters, not judges.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.