X-Message-Number: 8735
Date: Fri, 07 Nov 1997 11:10:02 -0700
From: David Brandt-Erichsen <>
Subject: Two news reports on Oregon

(Friday Nov 7/97)


Doctors must spell out on prescriptions that medication
is for assisted suicide, so pharmacists can choose
whether to participate

By Patrick O'Neil of The Oregonian staff
FanZone Forum

Doctors who write life-ending prescriptions
under Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law
will have to spell out the purpose of the

An emergency rule approved Thursday by the
Oregon Board of Pharmacy requires doctors to
specify in writing on the prescription that
the medication is being requested for
assisted suicide.

Oregon pharmacists long have been uneasy that
the law, which permits terminally ill
patients to seek deadly doses of medication,
doesn't require anyone to notify them when
they are participating in a suicide.

The Death With Dignity Act, approved by
voters as Measure 16 in 1994, allows
physicians and other health care workers to
choose not to assist suicides if it violates
their ethics.

But pharmacists have been concerned that they
wouldn't have that choice.

The new rule says physicians must refer to
ORS 127.800, the legal statute of the Oregon
Death With Dignity Act, on prescriptions.

Paige Clark, a Portland pharmacist and
chairwoman of an Oregon Association of
Pharmacists task force on assisted suicide,
said notification is important to pharmacists
who want to help in doctor-assisted suicides
and those who don't.

"A pharmacist has a professional obligation
to not only evaluate every prescription but
has a professional right to decide whether to
fill that prescription," she said.

Pharmacists who want to help with suicides
say the notification will let them better
counsel patients on how to use the

"Pharmacists, with their training and
background, can be exceptionally helpful to a
physician and may indeed be the entity that
will determine success or failure" of the
assisted suicide, Clark said.

Joseph Schnabel, a pharmacy board member and
assistant director of the Salem Hospital
pharmacy, said, "If they're going to take a
large dose of barbiturates, they need to take
it very rapidly because of the possibility
that they'd fall asleep before they finished

The emergency rule can remain in effect for
six months, then must be replaced with a
permanent rule that requires public hearings.

The following wire story was issued by ASSOCIATED PRESS
(Nov 7/97; 4:48 a.m. EST)


The Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- Legislative leaders have dropped the
idea of calling a special session to fine-tune the assisted
suicide law that was upheld by the state's voters earlier
this week.

The possibility was raised Wednesday that House and Senate
members might be called back to Salem to consider issues
such as residency requirements for people wanting lethal

On Thursday, however, Senate President Brady Adams said
that, after meeting with Gov. John Kitzhaber, House Speaker
Lynn Lundquist and others, he saw no compelling reason to
have a special session.

Calling a session would be premature and might be seen by
voters as a further attempt to derail the law, the Grants
Pass Republican said.

"There was no enthusiasm for it," Adams said.

Instead of a special session, legislative leaders appointed
a joint House-Senate committee that will study the suicide
law and possibly propose changes to the 1999 Legislature.

Adams, meanwhile, also said he didn't want to go to the
expense and effort of a special session when there still is
a prospect the law could be blocked by further legal action.

There's disagreement about whether the law is in effect or
continues to be tied up by paperwork resulting from an
earlier case that was thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Two U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judges who vacated the
injunction Oct. 27 said Thursday that Oregon's law is in
effect, The Oregonian reported.

The National Right to Life attorney who's been trying to
overturn Oregon's law said Thursday he likely will file a
further legal appeal which could put the suicide law on hold
for months or longer.

"It's a possibility if someone comes forward and has
standing" to sue, said James Bopp of Terre Haute, Ind.

Despite the legal uncertainty surrounding the issue,
Oregon's medical community is pushing ahead and trying to
figure out exactly how to implement the law, which allows
terminally ill patients to ask their doctor for a lethal
prescription of drugs.

"It's fair to say that we have a number of concerns about
this, and we don't have the answers," said Dr. Patrick Dunn,
who is chairman of the Task Force to Improve the Care of
Terminally Ill Oregonians.

The task force, which has representatives of 25 hospitals
and medical professional organizations, was formed after the
1994 law passed to give guidance to caregivers about medical
and ethical issues surrounding assisted suicide.

The group is working on a handbook for doctors and others
who might be involved in assisted suicides.

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