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SCOTUS Upholds Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, 6-3

Oh, what a glorious day when I can post something positive about the Supreme Court!

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Oregon’s one-of-a-kind physician-assisted suicide law, rejecting a Bush administration attempt to punish doctors who help terminally ill patients die.

Justices, on a 6-3 vote, said the 1997 Oregon law used to end the lives of more than 200 seriously ill people trumped federal authority to regulate doctors.

That means the administration improperly tried to use a federal drug law to prosecute Oregon doctors who prescribe overdoses. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft vowed to do that in 2001, saying that doctor-assisted suicide is not a “legitimate medical purpose.”

Because, after all, death is such an unnatural and ungodly abomination, and ending the pain of terminally ill people isn’t something Christ would advocate. Who wants to bet that if Former Attorney General Ass-Crisco was lubing himself up with his annointing oil, slipped and knocked himself into into a painfully deteriorating state of quadriplegia, that he’d be packing up and moving to Oregon quicker than you can say “Let the Eagle Soar”? OK, maybe he wouldn’t… but typing that last sentence made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said the federal government does, indeed, have the authority to go after drug dealers and pass rules for health and safety.

But Oregon’s law covers only extremely sick people — those with incurable diseases, whom at least two doctors agree have six months or less to live and are of sound mind.

So that’s an interesting twist when you compare that to the 6-3 majority that decided Raich v. Gonzalez. In that case, SCOTUS decided that feds can raid state-sanctioned legal medical marijuana users and growers for violating federal marijuana law.

Congress’ power to regulate purely local activities that are part of an economic “class of activities” that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce is firmly established. If Congress decides that the “total incidence” of a practice poses a threat to a national market, it may regulate the entire class. Of particular relevance here is Wickard v. Filburn,

In other words, the Commerce Clause of the Constitution allows feds to regulate state medical marijuana, even if the marijuana is grown, harvested, and used completely within state boundaries (thus, no “interstate”) for medicinal purposes with no consideration or compensation (thus, no “commerce”), because medical marijuana is indistinguishable from black market marijuana, and the free production of medical marijuana in the states may have an effect on the illegal black market. They weren’t required to prove that was likely, there merely had to be a “rational basis” that such an outcome were possible.

And that’s good for the feds, because if they were forced to think about it, they’d realize that the only possible effect medical marijuana could have on the black market is to depress the price of marijuana. It’s Econ 101 – increase the supply and availability and the price drops. In effect, Raich was a drug-dealer-friendly decision – they protected the scarcity of the black market.

If they had to do any research, they’d note figures from California and the other medical marijuana states that passed their laws in the 90’s that show teen use of marijuana declining over the period of legal medical marijuana. I guess puffing a joint isn’t such a rebellious teen act when the thai stick is thought of as granny’s glaucoma medicine instead of the hip, dangerous drug the feds make it out to be.

Kennedy concurred in the Raich majority that ruled that doctors could not prescribe safe, effective marijuana to patients, because Congress has the right to regulate the health and safety of dangerous drugs. But Kennedy, writing this majority opinion, concludes that Congress does not have the right to interfere with doctors prescribing lethal, effective life-ending drugs to patients? Is it because there is no interstate black market in suicide drugs? Is it because there are no rich powerful corporate interests with a stake in keeping suicide drugs illegal?

(CNN) Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia dissented.

Get ready to see that sentence repeated often…

Scalia, writing the dissent, said that federal officials have the power to regulate the doling out of medicine.

“If the term ‘legitimate medical purpose’ has any meaning, it surely excludes the prescription of drugs to produce death,” he wrote.

The legitimate purpose of medicine is to help us live our lives as fully and painlessly as possible. Death is a natural part of the process of living. These people have reached the end of the fullest life they can possible manage and are now wracked with pain and suffering. Scalia seems to think tenuous, agony-filled, artificial clinging to life is a more legitimate use of medicine than helping someone at the end complete their life journey as painlessly as possible. I wish only for Justice Scalia to pass painlessly in his sleep, for to wish him years of painful deterioration bedridden in a state other than Oregon would be a mean-spirited exercise of projected schadenfreude on my part.

It’s a beautiful world we live in, kids. The government rejects the medical use of a safe, effective, non-toxic, mildly-euphoric flower, accepts the medical use of lethal drugs to facilitate suicide, and those in government who think doctors shouldn’t be in the assisted suicide business are more than willing to accept defense contractors engaging in the torture business. It’s not okay to end natural terminal pain, but it’s okay to inflict it on our enemies if the president says so?

Who are you people, and what have you done with my America?

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