ASSISTED SUICIDE: Eschewed by Most Oregon Physicians
Two-thirds of Oregon physicians who treat terminally ill patients say they would not assist in a patient suicide, according to an "informal sampling" by the Oregon Health Division. "I haven't been trained to kill people. I've been trained to help them live as long as possible," said Portland cancer specialist Dr. Jana Reddoch, echoing sentiments of other doctors. Of the 15 Oregonians who took advantage of the state's Death with Dignity Act last year, six were "turned down by at least one doctor," the Spokane Spokesman-Review reports. Compassion in Dying Executive Director Barbara Coombs Lee, a chief proponent of the law, said the measure provides for doctors to "opt out" of the suicides for moral or ethical reasons. "It creates a right for patients to ask for the prescription but it doesn't provide a duty for the physician to provide it," she said. Study author Dr. Katrina Hedberg suggested that in addition to moral opposition, doctors' refusal to participate in assisted suicides arises from fear of public harassment. "It is extremely controversial. It's like being an abortion doctor," she said. The Health Division is conducting a more comprehensive survey of doctors' attitudes toward assisted suicide; last year's report focused on patient attitudes (3/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.