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A final judicial victory

Blindjustice In what amounts to a “going out of business” sale, the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday upheld Oregon’s doctor-assisted suicide law.

Get your more-liberal opinions while you can! Only a few Sandra Day O’Connor swing-vote specials left! Soon to be under new management!

OK, the nation’s highest court isn’t going anywhere. Rather, it’s some basic legal tenets that many of us grew up with that are doomed.

OK, it was a 6-to-3 ruling, so O’Connor’s vote to uphold the Oregon law wasn’t of supreme (pardon the pun) importance in this case.

And OK, technically the Court already is under the new management of Chief Justice John Roberts who, not surprisingly, sided with the Bush Administration in this case. The Administration’s argument, enthusiastically espoused initially by former Attorney General John Ashcroft: A doctor has no “legitimate medical purpose” in prescribing narcotics to a terminally-ill patient, who then uses the medication to commit suicide.

Taking it a step further, Ashcroft and his successor Alberto Gonzalez maintained that such “illegitimate traffic in controlled substances” made Oregon physicians criminally liable under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Basically, Bush officials were telling Oregon doctors that if they took what they, their patients and their state’s medical oversight system determined was the best course of treatment for a dying person, then the physicians should prepare to get in line to be Jack Abramoff’s bunkmate at a federal prison.

Joining Roberts in the dissent, again no surprise, were Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Add Samuel Alito to the mix, and you get the idea of where the nation’s top court will be heading for the next, oh, decades.

I cringe every time I hear someone in the political party that ostensibly champions states’ rights come out screaming against a particular state’s specific right. The fact that the majority of Oregon’s voting residents approved the Death With Dignity Act in two different referendums doesn’t matter. Apparently, the only states’ rights that count are the ones that the national GOP hierarchy agrees with.

Equally mind-boggling is that this is the same party that is dead-set against federal government involvement in helping provide for medical care that prolongs or improves lives of relatively healthy citizens in all states. Universal health care for 46 million uninsured U.S. citizens, no! The federal government butting into a voter-approved measure that’s affected 208 people who wanted to make their own medical choices, yes!

Man, if I had better insurance, I’d head to a doctor right now for tests to determine why my head is spinning so.

TODAY’S TAX TIP: Medical costs factor into today’s tip on deciding which deduction method, claiming the standard amount or itemizing, is better for you. Doctor’s bills, certain medical insurance payments, prescription drugs, even some home remodeling projects might be deductible for itemizers.

Deciding which deduction method to use is important, because deductions reduce your taxable income. You always want to choose the one that gives you the larger deduction amount.

Most people still use the standard amount. Many choose this option because it’s easy. Others take the standard amount because it’s been increasing each year, negating the need to itemize.

On 2005 returns, unless a single filer has more than $5,000 in deductible expenses, it’s not worth the trouble to itemize. The amount is double that for married couples filing jointly and $7,300 for a head of household taxpayer.

If you do have deductible expenses but they fall just short of the standard figure for your filing status, you might want to re-examine last year’s expenses. You might find a few you overlooked, perhaps enough to warrant itemizing. This story has some places to start looking.

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