ASSISTED SUICIDE: House Vote Postponed Again
The House of Representatives yesterday did not vote on Rep. Henry Hyde's (R-IL) bill to overturn Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law (House GOP Cloakroom, 9/18). Yesterday's Portland Oregonian reported that further delay on the vote was expected, given Congress' hectic schedule as its targeted Oct. 9 adjournment date approaches. An aide to Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) said the Hyde bill "is not a high priority. There are other things that are ready to go."
Pain Control Commission Proposed
On Wednesday, the Clinton administration proposed the creation of "a national commission to study use of pain-killing drugs by the terminally ill." In a letter to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a key supporter of the Hyde bill, the administration "asked if Hatch would agree to turn over the issue to a panel representing doctors, nurses, consumers, theologians, ethicists and law enforcement." The Oregonian reported that Hatch was "noncommittal" on the administration proposal. But Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) called the commission proposal "a good idea." He said, "We're interested in relieving pain and providing comfort, not in killing patients. I think in the end, frankly, that's where most Oregonians are."
According to the Oregonian, the commission proposal could be an administration attempt to "stall" the Hyde bill, "possibly halting it until a new Congress convenes next year." Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said, "I think it's clear that they're saying this requires more time, more thought" (Barnett, 9/17).
AMA vs. GOP
CongressDaily/A.M. columnist Julie Rovner writes that the American Medical Association -- a traditional supporter of the Republican Party -- "has of late been in an ugly war of words with the joint Republican leadership over" managed care reforms and the Hyde assisted-suicide bill. Rovner says "the heart of the medical community's opposition is survey after survey has shown that many terminal patients die in needless pain because doctors are loathe to prescribe adequate pain medication." Doctors, Rovner writes, fear that the Hyde bill's proposal to step up Drug Enforcement Administration investigation into physicians' prescribing of pain killers will make it less likely that appropriate palliative care will be given (9/17).