ASSISTED SUICIDE: Retooled Bill Would Be De Facto Ban
Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) and Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) yesterday resurrected a revamped version of legislation that would encourage the use of controlled substances to ease pain in the terminally ill, while restricting their use in physician-assisted suicide, CongressDaily reports. The Pain Relief Promotion Act, first introduced last year to thwart Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, differs in that this year's version "includes a wide array of provisions aimed at improving pain management." In doing so, the measure has already won over several groups that opposed last year's bill, including the National Hospice Organization (Rovner, 6/17). Unlike last year's bill, the retooled version does not give the Drug Enforcement Agency new regulatory authority or propose a medical advisory board to review assisted-suicide cases. David Simpson, board chair of the National Hospice Organization, said his group's stance changed after the lawmakers yanked the medical oversight board provision. The "chilling effect" on medical practices that such oversight would have had, he said, "was a major reason his group" reversed their position and now supports the measure. Despite the easing of restrictions, the bill nonetheless prohibits the use of controlled substances for assisted suicide. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who last year blocked Nickles' measure, vowed he would again "vigorously oppose it." He said the bill is "clearly aimed at overturning Oregon law. I think it is wrong for a member of Congress, thousands of miles from the state of Oregon, to substitute his own personal judgement on a matter like this." Barbara Coombs Lee, sponsor of Oregon's initiative, blasted Nickles' measure because it "would allow the federal government for the first time to define a legitimate medical practice and permit law enforcers to investigate the intent of doctors in furnishing pain drugs to terminally ill patients" (AP/ Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 6/18).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.