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By United Press International  |  Feb. 22, 2002 at 4:45 AM
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THE RIGHT TO DIE

The Justice Department has asked a federal judge to dismiss Oregon's lawsuit against Attorney General John Ashcroft and other officials. The suit challenges Ashcroft's determination that federal drug law prevents doctors from assisting a patient's suicide under Oregon's Death with Dignity Act.

So far, Oregon is the only state where voters have approved an assisted suicide law. It allows physicians to prescribe medication so that terminally ill patients can commit suicide.

The federal Controlled Substances Act makes it unlawful for any person to "manufacture, distribute, or dispense" any controlled substance, "except as authorized" by the act. The federal act expressly includes doctors in its jurisdiction.

After Oregon's Death with Dignity Act took effect in November 1997, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued an opinion that the federal CSA does not permit the use of controlled substances for assisted suicide. Then-Attorney General Janet Reno, however, overruled the DEA, saying it did not have the authority to prosecute a physician acting under the state law. But last November, Ashcroft reversed his predecessor, saying assisted suicide was not included as a "legitimate medical purpose" under the CSA, and that physician's who acted under the state law could have their licenses revoked. Oregon then sued to prevent Justice Department action against physicians who help terminally ill patients to commit suicide.

-- What do you think? Should assisted suicide be legalized, or at least decriminalized? Why or why not?

(Thanks to UPI Legal Affairs Correspondent Michael Kirkland)


ONLINE SHOPPING

The end of 2001 saw a significant boost in online spending, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The agency said online sales -- excluding travel and food services -- hit $10 billion in the fourth quarter, a 13.1 percent jump over the same period in 2000. That total is still only a fraction of overall retail sales, which were estimated at $860.8 billion, according to the bureau, which is part of the Commerce Department.

Total online sales for 2001 were approximately $32.6 billion, an increase of 19.3 percent over 2000.

-- Have you ever purchased anything online? If not, why not? If "yes," how concerned are you about security when shopping via the Internet?

(Thanks to UPI's Joe Warminsky in Washington)

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