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Don't assist suicide law

Assisted suicide is wrong. Not only is it morally wrong it should also be legally wrong. The legal part of that equation may soon change.

By deciding not to hear a challenge to an Oregon law allowing terminally ill patients to get a doctor's help in killing themselves, the Supreme Court has left open a door that could lead to terrible consequences.The Oregon law, which was originally passed in 1994 only to be put on hold by various legal appeals, may become moot as residents will shortly be voting on a measure to repeal it. It should be repealed. But if voters and renewed legal challenges fail to do so, Oregon will become the first state to allow a form of assisted suicide. Other states could soon follow.

The Supreme Court seems to be splitting hairs with its non-decision. It had rightly ruled in June that terminally ill Americans do not have a Constitutional right to doctor-assisted suicide. That ruling, however, did not prohibit states from allowing doctors to prescribe deadly drugs to terminally ill patients who want to die. It should have. Failure to do that has given life to a deadly law.

Is there much difference between having a physician present, like Dr. Jack Kevorkian, to help a person die and having that person take a lethal drug prescribed by a doctor?

Few safeguards are built into the Oregon law - the patient must be expected to die within six months and there is a 15-day waiting before the lethal drug may be obtained. These restrictions act as little more than windows for a further cheapening of the sanctity of life. Maybe the next law will change the expected-to-die clause from six months to a year. And maybe some day the waiting period will disappear. Once the legislation exists, changes are easy.

Many people who are suffering with terminal illnesses are naturally frightened and depressed, and doctors should do all they can to lessen that fear and pain and help their patients get counseling or help through hospice or other similar programs. They should not have the option of prescribing lethal drugs for their patients.

Only bad things can result from starting on the path that leads to assisted suicide. Legalized abortion bears that out.

Assisted suicide is not to be confused with the right to refuse medical treatment to prolong life. There is a fundamental difference between the patient who says, "let me die," and one who says, "make me die." The difference is vast between removing life support systems and having a patient injected with a lethal drug that guarantees immediate death.

Should the court erase that difference, the consequences would be disastrous. What's designed to end the life of the terminally ill today could evolve into something far more heinous tomorrow. That's why assisted suicide in any form must not be allowed to happen.