ASSISTED SUICIDE: Senate Judiciary Committee Reviews Bill
The Senate Judiciary Committee today will debate the controversial Pain Relief Promotion Act, legislation that would prevent physicians from assisting terminally ill patients end their lives (Rovner, CongressDaily/A.M., 4/27). The bill would block Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, passed on a referendum by state voters, by preventing physicians from prescribing lethal doses of pain-killing drugs listed under the federal Controlled Substances Act. The bill's chief sponsor, Assistant Majority Leader Don Nickles (R-Okla.), said he "already was looking forward to winning 'overwhelming' support in the full Senate." Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) said Tuesday that he "felt forced to choose between the will of Oregon voters and his personal opposition to physician-assisted suicide." He has decided to support the bill, saying, "I would be less than candid if I didn't tell you that I'd prefer to be with the majority" (Barnett/Hogan, Portland Oregonian, 4/26). Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who opposes assisted suicide and voted against his state's law, nonetheless will vote against the Pain Relief Promotion Act, because the bill allows the Drug Enforcement Administration to regulate physician's ability to write prescriptions. Despite revisions to the bill, Wyden told the committee, "Nothing has really changed. Your bill would authorize local, state, and federal law enforcement officials, with no expertise and scant training in health care, to dissect a physicians's intent with respect to prescribing pain relief medications" (CongressDaily/A.M., 4/27).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.