In the first controversial case of new Chief Justice Roberts' tenure, the Supreme Court heard arguments today on Oregon's right to die law. The Supreme Court today heard arguments in an emotional case that may affect millions of Americans.
At one level, the question is whether the federal government can overrule an Oregon law allowing doctor-assisted suicide for dying patients.But behind the legalities lies the human element.
Supporters of the Oregon law call it death with dignity.
Char Andrews, a breast cancer patient said, "We need to quit using the word suicide. It is compassion in dying." Char Andrews is at stage-four breast cancer patient, and she says she intends to fight her disease as long as she is able. But she also supports the Oregon law that allows doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to patients who are terminally ill.
Dr. Nick Gideonse, a family practice physician said, "I think it's clearly within the physician's realm to help, to heal, to avoid suffering, and when we can't cure, to provide physician aid in dying."
Since the Oregon law took effect in 1997; 208 people have sought and received such assistance from their doctors. But it is a option that posses a intense moral dilemma for many, including the Bush administration, which is arguing against the law today.
Jim Bopp, whose on the National Right to Life committee said,"It is not medical treatment. It is the opposite of medical treatment. It is doing harm to your patient."
Greg Yaden has been battling leukemia for over a year, and his doctors believe he will not survive much longer. He already has the lethal dose of barbiturates he says he will take to hasten his death, when and if the time comes. But today, he is paying close attention to the court's deliberations. Greg said, "I'm trying to lead a dignified life and have a dignified ending to it. My only question would be, what the hell business is it of yours?"