RIGHT TO DIE: AMA Endorses Bill That Would ‘Block’ OR Law
The retooled version of last year's failed Pain Relief Promotion Act received a "significant boost" late last week from the American Medical Association, which gave its blessing after the bill was tweaked to include a number of provisions to improve pain management, the Portland Oregonian reports. Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) and Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) resurrected the bill that was introduced last year, critics say, to derail Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. With the AMA on board, the bill now enjoys the support of the group with the "most political clout among the medical and patient care groups that joined together to oppose similar legislation last year." AMA President Dr. Thomas Reardon said the revisions eased physicians' concerns that the measure would target them for aggressively treating the pain of terminally ill patients. "I think the general feeling was that the modifications were enough that this would not have an impact on patients, and physicians would still feel comfortable with aggressive treatment," he said. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent a leader Thursday to Reardon, asking the AMA to reconsider its stance on the Nickles-Hyde bill. Wyden and Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-OR) are the authors of the Conquering Pain Act, another approach to clarifying use of medication in end-of-life care (Hogan, 6/25).
Hashing it Out
The House Judiciary Constitution subcommittee heard Thursday from supporters and opponents of the measure. Oregon-based Physicians for Compassionate Care's Gregory Hamilton argued in favor of the measure, saying the act "clarifies to physicians, nurses, and state medical boards, as well as to law enforcement personnel, that provision of pain medicine is a legitimate medical practice." But opponents argued that this year's version of the proposal "is no better" than last year's. "The climate that already exists in end-of-life care encourages levels of caution which too frequently result in increased pain and suffering for sick people," testified Ann Jackson of the Oregon Hospice Association (Rovner, CongressDaily, 6/24). The bill encourages the use of controlled substances in treating the terminally ill while restricting their use in physician-assisted suicide, but Jackson the measure "still focuses on the doctor's intent, and that will inevitably lead to second-guessing of physicians' actions." Subcommittee member Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) disagreed with Congress taking up the issue, saying, "[T]his is a very local issue. The right of the people of Oregon to make their judgment doesn't affect people in Massachusetts, it doesn't affect people in Illinois" (Oregonian, 6/25).