Where is thy sting?

The Reverend Gary Davis, a blues master from yesteryear, penned a tune entitled, “Death Don’t Have No Mercy.” The point of the song has recently been re-driven home by the plight of an old pal of mine.

He (the old pal) is the unfortunate victim of cirrhosis of the liver and is now in the terminal stage of the disease. The medical approach now is reduced to “hopeless, so just make him comfortable.”

I’ve been visiting him in his hospital room, and it’s now apparent that this will be the place in which he will finally slip away from the crumbling wreckage of his body and head off into the Great Well-What-Have-We-Here? His demise has not been particularly attractive. I’ll spare you the grim details and just say that after each visit, I take a vow to be a little bit nicer to my liver.

After my last visit, I thought of something besides my friend’s mortal predicament and my own guts. I thought of Oregon. Specifically, of Oregon’s physician-assisted suicide law. I knew the voters of Oregon approved such a law, voting for it in two separate elections, and it‘s now officially engraved onto the state’s books. But I wasn’t quite sure how the concept is actually put into application.

The law is simple. It says a patient with a doctor-certified terminal disease may request a “last prescription,” usually of barbiturates. The doctor counsels the patient on how many drugs to take to successfully complete the mission, and then it’s up to the patient to actually do the deed. There are safeguards in the system, including a 15-day waiting period, to ensure the process isn’t tainted by frivolous participants.

Naturally, the Bush administration is determined to fuck with it.

It started with the always charming Mr. Ashcroft, who stuck his big fat ass into this thing back in 2002, trying to get the law tossed out because of its unacceptability to the Rapture Right. Ashcroft and his skulking minions got the law tossed into the Oregon courts, where it was reviewed by State Appeals and deemed just fine. Predictably, Ashcroft carried on, ordering the case to move up the judicial food chain to the infamous 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. He probably suspected that those three robes, who have a long history of poking needles into Draconian balloons, were gonna tell him to go take a flying jump at a rolling doughnut. They did.

Did Ashcroft back off after that ruling? Of course not. And so, in the next session of the Supreme Court, which will likely feature a new bench that will clearly be tilted more toward Ding Dong City, the utterly humane and supremely decent Oregon Physician-Assisted Suicide Law (one that we need very much in Nevada) will be reviewed. BushCo, now under the direction of Alberto Gonzales, will do its best to trash it. No matter the outcome, the fact that it’s being reviewed at all is yet another reason to fear and loathe this maniacal bunch of evangelistas.