ASSISTED SUICIDE: Poll Shows Strong Support Nationwide
Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to any congressional action that would further restrict or prohibit doctors from prescribing medication that a terminally ill patient could take to end his or her life, according to a new poll sponsored by several groups that support assisted suicide. Sixty-six percent of respondents would support a law similar to Oregon's Death with Dignity Act in their own state. By a margin of 72% to 26%, respondents opposed legislation in Congress that would prohibit doctors from prescribing medication that a terminally ill patient could take to end life (release, 7/29). Sixty-nine percent agreed with the statement, "When a person is dying of a terminal disease, he or she should be allowed by law to request and receive help from his physician to end his life," while only 28% disagreed.
The Washington Post reports that the poll "comes as Congress is considering a Lethal Drug Abuse Prevention Act that would allow the Drug Enforcement Agency to lift a doctor's license to prescribe controlled substances if he or she prescribes suicide doses of medications." Introduced by assisted-suicide opponents Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) and Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK), the bill came in reaction to a ruling by Attorney General Janet Reno that stated the DEA currently lacks such authority, thus limiting the federal government's ability to trump state-enacted assisted-suicide laws like the one in Oregon (Claiborne, 7/30). The poll found that 75% of respondents opposed congressional legislation that would effectively overturn the Oregon law. Among those who oppose the Oregon law, 52% still don't want Congress to overturn it. The survey of 1,000 adults was sponsored by the Death With Dignity National Center, Compassion In Dying and the Oregon Death With Dignity Legal Defense and Education Center. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.1% (release, 7/29).
Maine Group Relies On Own Poll
Supporters of an assisted-suicide law in Maine modeled after Oregon's law will begin collecting signatures in November in hopes of getting the measure on the ballot in 1999 or 2000. Fred Richardson, "a former legislative sponsor of the bill" and president of the group running the petition drive, said a recent poll shows 71% of state residents support assisted suicide. He said, "Mainers know what is right as they demand choice, patient autonomy and better palliative care -- a fact that has followed passage of similar legislation in Oregon" (AP/Nando Times, 7/30).