CMA Files Brief in Opposition to Federal Efforts To Overturn Oregon Assisted-Suicide Law
The California Medical Association yesterday filed a brief with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in opposition to efforts by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to overturn an Oregon law that allows physician-assisted suicide, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/14). Under the Death with Dignity Act, approved by Oregon voters in 1994 and 1997, physicians can prescribe, but not administer, lethal doses of prescription drugs to a terminally ill patient after two physicians agree that the patient has fewer than six months to live, has decided to die voluntarily and can make health care decisions. Ashcroft last year issued a directive that said physicians who assisted in suicides would lose their licenses to dispense federally controlled substances. However, Oregon filed suit to block the directive, and U.S. District Judge Robert Jones ruled in April that the federal government does not have the authority to overturn the law. The Justice Department appealed the case in September (California Healthline, 9/24). The CMA brief argued that Ashcroft's directive would "discourage physicians everywhere from giving terminally ill patients enough pain medication," a trend that could result in "needless painful deaths" for many patients, the Chronicle reports. Physicians would "hold back (in prescribing pain medication) because physicians are risk-averse," Dr. Robert Brody, chief of the Pain Consultation Clinic at San Francisco General Hospital, said. The San Francisco Medical Society yesterday filed a similar brief with the court (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/14).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.