X-Message-Number: 7794
Date: Sun, 02 Mar 1997 19:20:42 -0700
From: David Brandt-Erichsen <>
Subject: Oregon update

(Note:  I still don't know if Measure 16 is scheduled to go into effect.)

        From the Portland Oregonian, February 28

        MARK O'KEEFE and ASHBEL S. GREEN - of the Oregonian Staff

        Summary: Lawmakers will consider seven bills to repeal the law,
        send it back to the voters or tinker with its rules

        Now that a federal appeals court has affirmed Oregon's law
        permitting doctor- assisted suicide, the Legislature in Salem
        could become the last roadblock to prevent terminally ill patients
        from taking lethal prescriptions.

        Seven bills are in the works to either repeal Measure 16, change
        it or send it back to voters.

        "Today's opinion creates a special sense of urgency," said Robert
        Castagna, head of the Oregon Catholic Conference, which supports a
        repeal of Measure 16.

        "Death is literally knocking on the doorstep of Oregonians," said
        Gayle Atteberry, executive director of Oregon Right to Life, which
        also endorses a repeal but might settle for a second chance before
        the voters.

        When 51 percent of Oregon voters approved Measure 16 in 1994, the
        right-to-die movement played to its strength, the general public.
        But now the issue shifts to the statehouse, where the movement has
        seen nothing but failure.

        For more than a decade, groups such as the Hemlock Society have
        persuaded friendly legislators in statehouses from California to
        New York to introduce bills permitting doctor- assisted suicide .

        Few have gotten out of committee to a floor vote. All have failed.

        "The political clout of the fundamentalists, the Right to Life
        lobby and the Catholic Church is disproportionate in the
        legislative assembly than they are in the general public," Measure
        16 co-author Barbara Coombs Lee said in explaining the dynamic.

        In addition, state legislators hear forceful testimony from
        representatives of medical groups such as the American Medical
        Association and the American Psychiatric Association. When clerics
        and doctors speak in one voice about a law, legislators usually

        This despite the fact that survey after survey shows a majority of
        the public supports having an option to end their own lives with
        the help of a doctor if they are terminally ill.

        Before Thursday's court ruling, a repeal of Measure 16 appeared
        unlikely, but a referral back to the voters, possibly in 1998,
        seemed to be a strong possibility.

        "Before, we thought we had a couple years or 18 months to deal
        with this," Atteberry said. "We don't have that kind of time

        To refer doctor- assisted suicide to the May ballot, the
        Legislature would have to pass a bill by March 21 to give the
        state enough time to send out a voters' pamphlet. This leaves
        essentially one week for hearings and one week to pass the House
        and the Senate.

        A key state representative said the Legislature should not put a
        doctor- assisted suicide measure back on the ballot in May while
        Thursday's ruling is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

        "I think that we can't get excited and hurry up and rush something
        out in a frenzy," said Rep. John Minnis, a Wood Village Republican
        who opposes assisted suicide . Minnis is chairman of the House
        Judiciary Committee, a subcommittee of which plans to hold
        hearings on doctor- assisted suicide in mid-March.

        A spokesman for Gov. John Kitzhaber said the Democratic governor
        could not support a repeal.

        Legislative votes on doctor- assisted suicide are expected to
        cross party lines.

        "I voted for Measure 16 and will support it," said Senate Majority
        leader Gene Derfler, R-Salem. "A personal experience convinced me
        of that. My dad wanted to die, and it took three months to do it.
        He wanted to go so much more quickly than that. I think anyone who
        sees a family member die would think we ought to have a choice."

        Thomas A. Wilde, D-Portland, also supports choice and voted for
        Measure 16 but now sees potential for abuse, such as family
        members pressuring relatives to kill themselves.

        "Just watch families when there is an inheritance," Wilde said.
        "Everyone turns into cannibals. It's really scary to watch."


        From the Portland Oregonian, March 1

        MARK O'KEEFE, ASHBEL S. GREEN and TOM BATES of the Oregonian Staff

        Summary: Supporters of Measure 16 express outrage about what they
        call second-guessing the electorate, and opponents say they'll
        take their fight to higher courts

        A day after a federal appeals court affirmed Oregon's stalled law
        allowing doctor-assisted suicide, state legislators predicted
        the issue will be sent back to voters for reconsideration.

        Opponents of Measure 16 also vowed to take their case to higher
        courts, which backers described as an exercise in futility.

        The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday threw out a suit
        filed shortly after Oregonians approved Measure 16 in November
        1994 by a 51-49 ratio. The vote made the state the first place
        worldwide to legalize doctor- assisted suicide .

        Friday in Salem, dismayed anti-Measure 16 legislators and
        lobbyists hoped to repeal the law before terminally ill Oregonians
        begin taking lethal prescriptions, possibly as early as April. By
        day's end, it was clear they didn't have the votes.

        Many legislators consider it heresy to override the will of the
        people. Of the 99 initiatives voters approved since 1904, none has
        been repealed by the Legislature, Secretary of State Phil Keisling

        Keisling knew of only one instance when the Legislature referred a
        citizen initiative back to the ballot for reconsideration. That
        was in 1908, when voters again approved a measure prohibiting
        railroad companies from giving free passes to preferred

        "I think it would be inappropriate for us to repeal the act, and I
        say this as someone who is not a supporter of this path we've gone
        down," said Senate President Brady Adams, R-Grants Pass. "But I do
        think it's appropriate to refer this back to the voters. If we're
        going to do a referral, the best time would be the May 20

        In order for that to happen, the Legislature, which hasn't held a
        hearing on the subject, probably would have to pass a bill by
        March 21. Another option would be to delay the scheduled May 20
        election, giving legislators more time to debate the divisive,
        complex issue.

        Legislators are considering pushing back the May election to give
        them more time to rewrite and refer Measure 47, a property tax cut
        voters approved in November.

        "It takes two to three weeks for something to get through the
        system. So there is obviously a sense of urgency on this," Adams
        said about assisted suicide .

        Adams advocated a fast-track referral after Rep. John Minnis,
        R-Wood Village, said rushing the matter would be a mistake.
        Minnis, who opposes assisted suicide , is chairman of a
        legislative judiciary committee expected to be a gatekeeper for
        any changesin Measure 16.

        Robert Castagna, head of the Oregon Catholic Conference, expressed
        frustration about the lack of coordination. To make matters worse
        for the anti-suicide forces, the Roman Catholic Church, led by
        Archbishop Francis George, maintained its uncompromising stance.

        In 1994, the church fought an expensive and ultimately
        unsuccessful campaign in which Catholics were accused of trying to
        force their morality on other Oregonians.

        "The only thing I've been given authority to advocate down at the
        Legislature is a direct repeal," Castagna said. "We're not
        enthralled by another election because of the expense, the
        uncertainty of the outcome and the inability to truly educate the
        voters in 30-second sound bites.

        Others took an approach that politics is the art of the possible,
        not the ideal.

        "A referral is what I expect to come out," said House Speaker Lynn
        Lundquist, R-Powell Butte.

        Backers of assisted suicide , who never have won nationally when a
        statehouse takes up the issue, expressed outrage about the notion
        of second-guessing voters.

        "I think the voters would see that as an insult," said Barbara
        Coombs Lee, a co-author of Measure 16. "We voted once. We had an
        exhaustive campaign. We had one of the most thorough and deep
        campaigns that has ever been known regarding a citizens'

        "For legislators to say, `Well, we don't think the voters really
        knew what they were doing,' is patronizing. So I don't think they
        would do it. If they did, it would be a tremendous waste of
        resources, and voters would pass it again, by a higher rate of

        In the legal arena of appeals, Indianapolis attorney James Bopp,
        who represents opponents of Measure 16, said he would ask the 9th
        Circuit for a rehearing.

        If a larger panel of 9th Circuit judges agrees to rehear the case,
        the briefing and oral argument process would start all over again
        said Mark Mendenhall, assistant circuit executive. Implementation
        of Measure 16 could be delayed a year.

        "Judges can be emphatically wrong," Bopp said. "We believe, in
        this case, they are. We are going to ask them to take a second

        Bopp said the court erred in denying standing to doctors who
        sought to be included as plaintiffs in the appeal. He said doctors
        face criminal and civil liability if they refuse to advise
        patients of their right to doctor- assisted suicide .

        Portland attorney Charles F. Hinkle, who served as co-counsel to
        Measure 16 sponsors fighting the appeal, said the 9th Circuit had
        considered the argument about doctors' standing and rejected it.

        "It is improper to file a petition for rehearing simply to argue a
        point already argued," he said.

        If the 9th Circuit refuses to rehear the case, Bopp said he would
        appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. He would seek a stay of the 9th
        Circuit's decision in the meantime on the grounds that to let
        Measure 16 go into effect would cause irreparable harm.

        "I don't know anything more irreparable than death," Bopp said.

        Hinkle and his co-counsel, Eli Stutsman, predicted that both
        appeals would fail.

        "The 9th didn't make new law yesterday," Hinkle said. "It applied
        well-established precedent about standing. . . . You can't bring a
        case based on speculation about the future."

        Stutsman said: "This issue is one of politics. They're buying time
        and hoping to accomplish through the Legislature what they
        couldn't accomplish in the courts and at the ballot box."

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