9th Circuit Smites As
A federal appeals court yesterday upheld the only law in the nation authorizing doctors to help their terminally ill patients commit suicide. The decision, by a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, said the Justice Department did not have the power to punish the doctors involved.
The majority used unusually pointed language to rebuke Attorney General John Ashcroft, saying he had overstepped his authority in trying to block enforcement of the state law, Oregon's Death With Dignity Act.
'The attorney general's unilateral attempt to regulate general medical practices historically entrusted to state lawmakers,' Judge Richard C. Tallman wrote for the majority, 'interferes with the democratic debate about physician-assisted suicide and far exceeds the scope of his authority under federal law.'