ASSISTED SUICIDE: Rep. Hyde’s Bill Clears Subcommittee
A House Judiciary subcommittee "amended and endorsed" a bill Wednesday that would effectively nullify Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law, the Portland Oregonian reports. Rep. Henry Hyde's (R-IL) legislation "would allow the Drug Enforcement Agency to discipline doctors who help patients kill themselves." The 6-5 vote in favor moves the bill to the full Judiciary Committee, "which is expected to approve the legislation" in preparation for a House vote this fall. The subcommittee approved two amendments to Rep. Hyde's bill. One amendment "added language specifying that if a physician prescribed medication solely with the intention of relieving a patient's pain, the attorney general would have to prove 'by clear and convincing evidence' that the physician acted with the purpose of causing or assisting in a person's death." This amendment also "specified that a medical board -- to be created to conduct such reviews of medical actions -- would issue advisory opinions rather than 'findings,' as specified in the original bill. The second amendment "altered wording that had been criticized because it could be interpreted as saying doctors could be disciplined for assisting in suicides under the Oregon law even before the proposed federal legislation takes effect."
AMA Still Opposed
Despite the changes, American Medical Association President-elect Dr. Thomas Reardon told the Oregonian that the group's "present position is unaltered." He said the changes don't address the organization's "chief concern: that the bill creates a federal board that would investigate doctors." The AMA believes that the bill would discourage physicians from prescribing high levels of pain medication necessary to comfort dying patients. Democrats lined up with AMA in opposition to the bill during hearings last week (Hogan, 7/23). Click here to read an American Medical News report detailing the AMA's objections to Rep. Hyde's bill. A Tulsa World editorial offers tentative support for Hyde's proposal: "The Hyde bill may not be the best solution to this difficult question, but it does mark another step along the way to a better solution" (7/24).