PAIN RELIEF ACT: Cancer Society Opposes Bill
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chief opponent of the Pain Relief Promotion Act, yesterday released an American Cancer Society position paper stating the society's opposition to the act due to its "potential problems" that outweigh its benefits, CongressDaily/A.M. reports. The announcement comes just as the Senate prepares to debate the act, which would essentially overturn Oregon's groundbreaking assisted suicide law (Rovner, 9/7). The Pain Relief Act prevents physicians from prescribing lethal doses of pain-killing substances, such as morphine, listed under the federal Controlled Substances Act (American Health Line, 4/27). Versions of the act, sponsored by Majority Whip Ron Nickles (R-Okla.) and Judiciary Chair Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), were approved by the House and the Senate Judiciary Committee. But the American Cancer Society's position paper, which "stopped short of saying it would work to defeat the bill," asserts that the measure has "serious problems" associated with its "dual intent." The measure "simultaneously amends the Controlled Substances Act to outlaw the use of scheduled drugs for assisted suicide, but would clarify that the use of such narcotics for pain relief is legal, even if those drugs hasten death." The "dual intent" puts physicians at the mercy of the Drug Enforcement Administration, which would ascertain whether the use of pain-killing substances in a patient who died was "intended to relieve pain or assist a suicide." The cancer society argues that this aspect of the law opens all "'pain and symptom management' decisions to question," which could lead to "unnecessary investigation and further disincentives to aggressively treat pain." Wyden added that the measure "further divide[s] prominent medical organizations ... [and] could threaten pain care in every community in the country" (CongressDaily/A.M., 9/7).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.