Today´s decision followed a decree by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft seeking to ban doctor-assisted deaths.
Ashcroft, acting on a campaign promise by President George W. Bush, had issued a decree last year saying that physician-assisted suicide was not a “legitimate medical purpose´´ and that the federal Controlled Substances Act barred doctors from using drugs to help patients commit suicide.
In his ruling, Federal Court Judge Robert Jones said Ashcroft´s decree was an attempt to “stifle an ongoing, earnest and profound debate´´ on the topic.
Oregon voters OK´d the Death with Dignity Act in 1994 and reaffirmed it in 1997. Since 1997, at least 70 people, most of them terminally ill, have killed themselves with drugs.