A Federalism of Convenience
Last November, at the height of the public’s concern about the war on terrorism, few were paying attention to an Oregon law that permits the assistance of a physician in hastening the death of a terminally ill patient. The statute, in effect since 1997, has been used by only 100 or so Oregonians who met its stringent, carefully drafted qualifications. So it was particularly stunning when Attorney General John Ashcroft directed the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to go after Oregon doctors and pharmacists prescribing under the state’s Death With Dignity law. But his motivation will not be examined here. Rather, the legal theory underpinning the directive, and its broader implications for other individual rights, are the subjects of this article.