California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Wyden Urges Bush to Uphold Oregon Assisted Suicide Law

After hearing "rumors" that the Bush administration may overturn Oregon's landmark physician-assisted suicide law, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote a letter to President Bush to "urge" him not to "alter" the law, CongressDaily reports. In 1998, then Attorney General Janet Reno determined that federal drug agents could not "take action" against doctors who prescribe lethal doses of controlled substances under Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, which allows physicians to assist a patient's death with controlled substances. A Wyden spokesperson said that the administration has considered a plan to "reverse" Reno's policy "for months," but delayed the move as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (CongressDaily, 11/5). Although Wyden opposes assisted suicide and voted against Oregon's law, a ballot initiative approved by voters in 1997, he has opposed legislation that would prevent physicians from helping terminally ill patients end their lives (California Healthline, 4/27/00). Last year, Wyden threatened to filibuster the legislation, which was known as the Pain Relief Promotion Act and was intended to overturn the Oregon law. The legislation ultimately failed. In February, when Oregon health officials released an annual report on patients who requested physician-assisted suicide, Wyden wrote Attorney General John Ashcroft and urged him not to "do anything to thwart the law" (California Healthline, 2/22).

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