X-Message-Number: 7677
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 1997 11:31:31 -0700
From: David Brandt-Erichsen <>
Subject: Oregon Measure 16 update

The following is excerpted from a front-page article in THE OREGONIAN on
February 10:


by TOM BATES - of the Oregonian Staff
Summary: Foes ready an all-out attack on Measure 16 with lawmakers, and
supporters are planning to strike back

Oregon's embattled Measure 16, the world's first law allowing doctor-
assisted suicide, could be history before anyone gets to order a bottle
of life-ending barbiturates.

Well-organized legislative assaults at federal and local levels threaten
to hamstring or gut the law, even if it survives a court challenge.

It will be five months before the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether
Americans have the right to kill themselves with a physician's
assistance. But activists opposed to doctors writing lethal
prescriptions aren't standing idly by.

In Washington, D.C, the U.S. Senate will get a first look this week at a
bill to prevent using federal money to help people die. In Oregon, the
Legislature is listening to a small army of Measure 16 opponents, who
demand nothing less than repeal of the 1994 initiative.

In Washington, D.C., Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, D-N.D., and Sen. John
Ashcroft, R-Mo. plan on Wednesday to introduce "The Assisted Suicide
Funding Restriction Act of 1997." The bill would bar any use of federal
money or facilities for assisted suicide and would relieve health care
providers of any obligation to tell patients they have a right to
assisted suicide.

The legislative attacks reflect growing recognition that the courts will
deem assisted suicide a state's rights issue. As the only state with an
assisted - suicide law on the books, that puts Oregon in the hot seat.

The U.S. Supreme Court is deliberating cases from New York and
Washington, states that seek to make assisted suicide illegal. If
justices rule that a constitutional right to die exists or that it is
strictly a state's rights issue, Oregon's Measure 16 becomes law.

Supporters of assisted suicide consider state legislative repeal of
Measure 16 the most serious threat to their cause.

Robert J. Castagna, executive director of the Oregon Catholic
Conference, said repeal is his top priority of the session. The
conference lobbies on behalf of 300,000 Oregon Catholics, the largest
congregation in the state.  Castagna has submitted a draft of a bill
called "The Oregon Compassionate Care Act of 1997."

Reflecting input from a variety of interest groups, including Oregon
Right to Life, it would erase Measure 16's provisions and create an
office and a hot line providing information and referral services to the
terminally ill and their families.

House Judiciary Chairman John Minnis, R-Wood Village, said that bill and
a variety of others to repeal Measure 16 absolutely would get a hearing.
"I personally am not in favor of physician-assisted suicide," Minnis


For Ballot Measure 16, the path to implementation has many twists and turns.
But experts on both sides of the issue think the 1994 Oregon initiative
could take effect by late this year or early 1998. The scenario, as
horrifying to foes as it is to opponents goes like this:

* The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, now reviewing a decision by U.S.
District Judge Michael Hogan of Eugene that Measure 16 is unconstitutional,
will wait to see what the U.S. Supreme Court says about the right-to-die
cases it heard in January from Washington state and New York.

* In June or July, the Supreme Court will rule that there is no
constitutional right to doctor-assisted suicide but that states may do what
they like about it.

* The 9th Circuit, which called the Oregon law "carefully crafted" will
order Judge Hogan to lift the ban he imposed in December 1994 blocking
Measure 16's implementation.

* Opponents will request that the ban stay in place while they petition the
Supreme Court to review it.

* The ban will be granted, but the Supreme Court will decide not to hear an
appeal, having already offered its opinion that the issue of
physician-assisted suicide is best left to the states.

* When the review is denied, as early as the first week of October,
Orgeon's Death-wtih-Dignity Act will take effect. The first possible
suicide is possible in about 30 days.

[Comment:  this seems like a likely scenario--dbe]

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