SALEM, Ore. - Attorney General John Ashcroft drew the ire of Oregon officials with one of his last official acts: Asking the U.S. Supreme Court to set aside the state's -- and nation's only -- assisted-suicide law.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski argued Tuesday that Oregon voters have twice endorsed the right of terminally ill patients to die more quickly and that "it's past time for this administration to focus on ways to work with Oregon -- not against us."
Ashcroft's challenge had been expected since May, when a lower court ruled the federal government could not punish Oregon doctors who prescribed lethal doses of federally controlled drugs.
While not as prominent as abortion, the issue is an important one for conservative Christians, who helped President Bush win a second term last week. The government waited until Tuesday, the final day possible, to file paperwork at the high court.
Oregon's law, known as the Death With Dignity Act, lets patients with less than six months to live request a lethal dose of drugs after two doctors confirm the diagnosis and determine the person's mental competence to make the request.
"Killing patients is not medical care," said James Bopp, a Right-to-Life lawyer based in Terre Haute, Ind. "What you have in Oregon is the equivalent of putting a gun to a patient's head and pulling the trigger. They just use drugs to do it."