This Week

"This Week" Continued...

Issue: "Debunking Darwinism," Nov. 22, 1997

Iraq-UN standoff

Carrying out a repeated threat, Iraq expelled six American members of a UN weapons inspection team. For days, Iraq had refused to give the team access to what inspectors believe is a cache of illegal arms acquired by Iraq in defiance of the international agreement that ended the Gulf War. President Clinton called the expulsion "clearly unacceptable" and pledged "to pursue this matter in a very determined way." Even so, administration officials played down the possibility of an immediate response. The expulsion order came one day after the UN Security Council unanimously voted to tighten post-war sanctions imposed on Iraq in 1991.

Euthanizing states' rights

As supporters of Oregon's first-in-the-nation physician-assisted suicide law clinked champagne glasses in a victory celebration earlier this month, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) were drafting a letter to Washington, D.C.'s top drug-enforcement official. They wanted to know whether doctors in Oregon who prescribed lethal doses of drugs to "patients" would be in violation of federal controlled-substances laws. Last week the two lawmakers, who chair the judiciary committees of the Senate and House, released the Drug Enforcement Administration's official reply. "'Delivering, dispensing, or prescribing a controlled substance with the intent of assisting a suicide is not a 'legitimate medical purpose' allowed by law," DEA administrator Thomas Constantine responded. In other words, doctors who prescribe drugs with the intent to kill risk losing their licenses to write narcotic prescriptions. Local DEA officials were already on the job. "Assuming that the medical examiner or whatever ruled this death to be suicide ... I don't think we would have any choice but to proceed," said the DEA's Arnold Lochner in the Portland Oregonian. Attorney General Janet Reno applied the brakes late last week at her weekly news conference, suggesting Mr. Constantine had spoken too soon: "I think it's important on a legal issue such as this the whole department review it, and we are in the process of doing it." The review should turn on the definition of "legitimate medical purpose" and whether one state's expression of what is "legitimate" overrides the federal government's definition. The same type of issues arise in California and Arizona, where "medicinal marijuana" was legalized, prompting drug czar Barry McCaffrey to threaten federal action. The Clinton administration backed off, and a U.S. district judge issued a restraining order against the government. All this creates a dilemma for states-rights advocates. Remember, it was federal government meddling-through the Supreme Court-that overrode abortion laws in all 50 states. But it's not as if these drug and euthanasia issues create a new precedent. The precedent is already set. The question is whether conservatives want to concede the point.

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