X-Message-Number: 11975
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 1999 09:54:58 -0700
From: David Brandt-Erichsen <>
Subject: Federal bill would overturn Oregon law

   Nickles, lawmakers renew fight against assisted suicide 

                            By JOHN HUGHES 
                            The Associated Press
                          06/17/99 11:09 AM Eastern

             WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sen. Don Nickles today led a
             renewed charge against Oregon's first-in-the-nation assisted
             suicide law, offering a new proposal that would make it
             illegal for physicians to use controlled substances to help
             patients die. 

             The proposal by Nickles, R-Okla., and House Judiciary
             Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., also makes it clear that
             controlled substances are "a legitimate medical purpose" for
             treating pain. The bill also calls for more training and
             education to improve end-of-life care. 

             "We want to make sure these substances are used for
             legitimate purposes, that is to alleviate pain, not to assist
             in a suicide," Nickles said at a news conference, which
             was not attended by Hyde. 

             He was joined by Rep. Bart Stupak, a Democrat from Dr.
             Jack Kevorkian's home state of Michigan, who is cosponsor
             of the House proposal. Stupak said the House bill has 58
             cosponsors so far. 

             The bill will be introduced later today in the House and on a
             later date in the Senate. 

             The proposal drew immediate criticism from Josh Kardon,
             Sen. Ron Wyden's chief of staff. 

             The bill would "train and deputize a doctors' police," and
             Wyden, D-Ore., will filibuster any attempt to overturn
             Oregon's law, Kardon said. 

             "The question you have to ask is would Sen. Nickles be
             introducing this bill if Oregon hadn't passed an assisted
             suicide law," he added. 

             Wyden and other backers of Oregon's law derailed Hyde
             and Nickels' attempt last year to overturn the landmark state
             law, even though Hyde-Nickles legislation cleared the
             House and Senate Judiciary committees. 

             But Kardon acknowledged that Hyde and Nickels have a
             stronger hand this year because of support they picked up
             from some medical groups. 

             The National Hospice Organization, which represents 3,000
             hospices specializing in end-of-life care, supports the Hyde
             and Nickles bill this year after opposing it last year. 

             The NHO supports the bill because it no longer calls for a
             board or committee that would report on physicians'
             activities and potentially wrongly accuse doctors of assisted
             suicide when patients die after receiving pain medication,
             said David Simpson, board chairman of the organization,
             who spoke at the press conference. 

             Other groups that opposed the bill last year, but support it
             this year, include the American Academy of Pain
             Management and the American Society of Anesthesiologists,
             Nickles said. 

             He rejected the notion that his bill is unfair to Oregonians,
             who have twice voted to enact an assisted suicide law. 

             He said if a state enacted a law to legalize heroin, the
             federal law would still supersede it and make sure the
             substance is illegal in all states. 

             "You need consistency, you need uniformity," Nickles said. 

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