Tuesday, January 17, 2006

For Right-Wingers, Their Ideology is, By Definition, Constitutional

The Supreme Court decision upholding Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law (insofar as it says the Attorney General may not decide that physician-assisted suicide is an illegitimate medical practice) goes a long way to illustrating the absolutely skewed philosophy of our government's Constitutional structure and laws that is held by those currently in power.

It is an especially onerous philosophy because it holds that only those with the correct political philosophy, namely neo-cons, corporatists, and religious political conservatives -- hereafter referred to as "right-wingers"-- may do whatever they deem necessary to uphold one particular view of the Constitution.

Those who do not fall into those categories are "liberals" and "activists." The reason they believe they may disregard what "liberals" like judges, lawyers, and some Congresspeople say about the Constitutional limits, structures and laws is that liberals misconstrue what the Constitutional limits, structures, and laws are. Only right-wingers know and can correctly apply the Constitution, and by definition, anything a right-winger does is Constitutional.

For example, right-wingers disdain "liberal activist" judges who overrule the will of states on right-winger issues, and support the same type of activism by judges who overrule the will of states on non-winger issues. "States' rights!" they cry. States should have the right to deny the vote to racial minorities, to outlaw certain sex acts, to allow companies to poison their residents. But states don't have the right to determine the vote count for President, or to make any laws which allow a brain dead or dying person to die.

I've argued before that it may have been true at one time under our Constitution, but the 14th Amendment changed that. Now, when it comes to determining Constitutionally guaranteed rights to all Americans, the Federal Government has a greater role, as we have "forged a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal," even poor politically powerless homosexual black men, no matter what state they happen to be in. States' rights do not trump all other rights as determined by the Congress and the Supreme Court, except, especially, when Congress is silent or specifically recognizes a right.

The three right-winger Justices, held in such high esteem by our King because they are right-wingers, in keeping with this philosophy, ruled against the states' rights aspect of the Oregon case, as well as upheld the notion that a right-winger may ignore the plain language and history of legislation to further a personal agenda.

The Controlled Substances Act gives the Attorney General power to regulate substances for legitimate medical uses, to prevent addiction and abuse, and determine who may dispense them. But, it reserves to the states the right to define legitimate medical uses of controlled substances, as long as they don't conflict with Federal law.

Oregon, a state, defined dispensation of controlled substances for physician-assisted suicide as a legitimate medical practice, as regulated by narrow rules. There is currently no Federal law prohibiting physician-assisted suicide, but AG Ashcroft said that his own judgment and philosophy may determine what a legitimate medical practice is, that he was given implicit authority by Congress to do so.

Sound familiar? It's the same disingenous justification King George has claimed to disregard FISA and the Constitution and conduct warrantless searches on American citizens. It ignores the plain language of the law, the legislative intent, the history of court cases and the law as applied. It's a justification that says, "regardless of all that has come before and my Constitutional role, my judgment is right."

The three right-winger justices go to great lengths to show how very wrong the majority is, though they end up saying what the majority has said: that the Congress gave to the AG the power to control and schedule certain chemical substances, and to register and de-register physicians, giving physicians the power to prescribe controlled substances for "legitimate medical purposes."

It's this last phrase that is the crux of the decision.

The right-wingers choose definitions and sources which suit their purposes and reasoning, which is to prohibit physician-assisted suicide. They rely heavily on provisions in the law that specify "medical use" and "abuse."

As they say, medical means "[t]he science and art dealing with the prevention, cure, or alleviation of disease."

The use of the word "legitimate" connotes an objective standard of "medicine..." virtually every medical authority from Hippocrates to the current American Medical Association (AMA) confirms that assisting suicide has seldom or never been viewed as a form of "prevention, cure, or alleviation of disease," and (even more so) that assisting suicide is not a "legitimate" branch of that "science and art."

When a disease has not been prevented, cannot be cured, and the only way to alleviate it -- in fact the impending, unavoidable outcome of it -- is death, isn't it reasonable to interpret the alleviation of disease to mean hastening death? Why, yes, it is, which is why doctors do it now and have done it throughout history. (see below) That is why using drugs to hasten death is a medical use. Nor is it an abuse, since death is the intended outcome of using the drug.

The Justices also don't mention the fact that the AMA is stacked with doctors who apparently don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the general medical community.

Whitney said the opinion of the rank-and-file reflects concerns with their patients' suffering, whereas AMA leaders are more apt to be concerned about the demands of making public policy, moral concerns and the difficulty of crafting legislation with all the necessary safeguards. He said he intentionally phrased the survey question broadly.

The survey found 61.6 percent of AMA delegates said they oppose physician-assisted suicide , compared with 33.9 percent of ordinary doctors. Whitney, who described himself as "a cautious supporter" of legalization, stressed that, in his opinion, the survey showed no consensus. In no geographic region, doctor specialty or gender, did a majority of participants either oppose or favor legalization.


He said a lot of people wrote on the questionnaire "it depends." [emphasis added]

It's not a settled issue in the medical community, and in fact, many doctors do give their patients palliative care, for instance giving so much morphine it suppresses respiration, causing death. This is not a new phenomenon, and carefully crafted legislation, such as Oregon's law, could overcome the AMA's objections.

But the three Justices and the AG have their own moral objections to physician-assisted suicide, thus they choose to ignore an objectively common medical practice in favor of the official, politically considered stance (winkwink) of the AMA. This has the effect of "de-legitimizing" a "legitimate" practice, substituting their own philosophies for that of the general medical community, the state of Oregon, the Congress, and the Constitution.

They are right-wingers, and their judgment trumps everything else.

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