X-Message-Number: 9400
Date: Fri, 03 Apr 1998 11:03:49 -0700
From: David Brandt-Erichsen <>
Subject: two Oregon reports

ASSOCIATED PRESS (April 3/98; 3:24 am EST)


   PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Fifty-three members of Congress, including
   House Speaker Newt Gingrich, have written Attorney General Janet Reno
   to urge that Oregon doctors who assist in their patients' suicide face
   possible revokation of their license to prescribe drugs.

   According to a tally by The Oregonian, at least 138 members of
   Congress have urged Reno to uphold the U.S. Drug Enforcement
   Administration's position that prescribing a lethal dose of drugs
   violates federal regulations.

   Reno has said she is continuing to study the issue. If she agrees with
   DEA administrator Thomas Constantine that Oregon doctors who assist in
   suicide could be subject to sanctions, it could effectively block
   application of the nation's only assisted-suicide law.

   The issue has gained a higher profile in Congress since it was
   disclosed that at least two terminally ill patients had killed
   themselves under the law.

   The letter sent to Reno Thursday also was signed by Sen. Orrin Hatch,
   R-Utah, and Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., who chair the Senate and House
   judiciary committees.

   The letters that have been written to Reno also show strong support
   for legislation that would block Oregon's law.

   Hyde said he would consider drafting legislation if Reno decides the
   DEA position is wrong.

   "I wouldn't say anything definite," he said, "but I'm interested in

ASSOCIATED PRESS (April 3/98; 3:24 am EST)


   PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- A group of Oregon medical professionals that
   visited the Netherlands to study ways to improve the state's
   physician-assisted suicide system said better monitoring of the deaths
   is needed.

   The seven-person delegation wrapped up its trip on Thursday.

   In a telephone interview from the Netherlands, Dr. Bonnie Reagan spoke
   on behalf of the delegation.

   "We're wondering if there is a way to obtain more definitive
   information from people," said Reagan, a family practice doctor in
   Portland. "I don't think the public needs to know the details of the
   cases. That's patient confidentiality. What the public needs to know
   is the process."

   The delegation's trip coincided with the revelation that two
   terminally-ill people have committed suicide under Oregon's law, the
   first of its kind in the nation.

   The Oregon law requires doctors to report to the Oregon Health
   Division such information as whether the patient was found to be
   mentally sound.

   But Reagan said other information, such as how it was determined the
   patient had less than six months to live or whether the patient had
   hospice care, would be useful.

   Some people argue that hospice care could lessen the desire for
   assisted suicide by providing emotional and spiritual comfort to the

   Oregon law requires only that doctors inform the patient that hospice
   care is available.

   The group included five members of a task force called Care of
   Terminally Ill Oregonians. The group, neutral on the issue of assisted
   suicide, published a handbook to be used to help health care
   professionals maneuver their way through the law.

   Assisted suicide and euthanasia are illegal in the Netherlands. But
   doctors have helped ailing patients kill themselves or have given
   lethal injections since 1973 and generally are not prosecuted.

   Dutch authorities told the Oregon group that in 1995 an estimated
   4,500 people died by euthanasia and another 500 died using assisted
   suicide, accounting for 3.7 percent of all deaths that year in the

   Dutch officials focus on how to get the most complete information
   about each case of euthanasia and assisted suicide. The Dutch require
   doctors to report certain details, but officials also send a survey to
   families and physicians, allowing them to describe their experiences

   The Oregon group, most of whom paid their own way for the trip, met
   with officials of the Royal Dutch Medical Association, the Royal
   Society of Pharmacy, the ministries of Health and Justice, the Free
   University and people from advocacy and opposition groups.

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