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STATES REJECTING MEASURES TO LEGALIZE ASSISTING SUICIDE.

While Oregon moves to fund assisting suicide as part of its health care rationing plan for the poor and the first news accounts of people getting lethal prescriptions are being published, other states are rejecting efforts to legalize the practice and moving to enact protective legislation.

In Maine, an Oregon-style bill to legalize assisting suicide was defeated by the House 99 to 42 on February 11 and by the Senate 25 to 5 on February 12. In New Hampshire, a similar bill was effectively defeated for the session when the House Judiciary and Family Law Committee voted 13 to 7 to refer it for interim study.

In Michigan, Jack Kevorkian continues his involvement in assisted suicides. According to Reuters, Kevorkian has now admitted to "helping" 80-100 people die, including those with disabilities and those with mental illnesses (see story on page 4). However, in December the Michigan Senate voted 28 to 7 for a law imposing permanent criminal penalties on assisted suicide and House action on the bill is expected soon. If it passes, Governor John Engler is expected to sign the measure.

In Kansas legislation to provide for civil remedies to prevent assisted suicide was approved by the House 111 to 13 on February 17. Similar legislation was passed off March 11 in the Oklahoma Senate by a vote of 47-0 and in the House, in addition to passage in the Virginia House, 77 to 20, on February 17, and by the Virginia Senate, 34-6, on March 11.

Meanwhile, in Oregon the Health Services Commission February 26 voted 10-1 to include physician-assisted suicide on the list of items for which the state's Medicaid program pays, as part of a category called "terminal illness, regardless of diagnosis," which is ranked number 260 of 745 items. Under the Oregon rationing plan, budgetary considerations determine how many of the 745 Categories of medical treatment receive funding. The relatively high ranking of the category including assisting suicide probably guarantees that it will receive funding, while some categories of lifesaving medical treatment ranked lower on the list will not. In some cases, therefore, Oregon will pay for poor people to kill themselves, but not to keep themselves alive.

According to a February 18 Portland Oregonian article, at least 10 people had formally requested lethal prescriptions, one of whom had completed all the steps and received the drugs, although the individual had not yet used the drugs to commit suicide. Some of those who applied died naturally during the 15-day waiting period.

In November, federal Drug Enforcement Administrator Thomas Constantine, in a letter to the chairmen of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, stated that prescribing federally controlled substances, such as narcotics and other dangerous drugs, to assist a suicide violates federal law and could result in suspending or revoking a doctor's registration to dispense such federally controlled substances. Shortly thereafter, however, Attorney General Janet Reno publicly announced that she had not been consulted by Constantine, and that his determination would be subject to Justice Department review and possible reversal.

Subsequently, that internal review recommended that the DEA determination be overturned, but at press time Reno had not yet formally acted to do so, while awaiting comments from the DEA and others on the internal reviews report. Nevertheless, Oregon doctors willing to practice euthanasia seem to have concluded that they are no longer at risk of adverse DEA action, and are proceeding to implement the law.

RELATED ARTICLE: 65% OPPOSE USE OF FEDERALLY CONTROLLED DRUGS FOR EUTHANASIA

By a margin of more than 2 to 1, Americans oppose the use of federally controlled drugs for assisted suicide and euthanasia. In a nationwide telephone poll conducted March 7-9, 1998 by Wirthlin Worldwide, 511 Americans were asked this question with the following results:
 As you may or may not know, the use of narcotics and other
 dangerous drugs is generally prohibited by federal law except
 when a doctor prescribes them for a "legitimate medical
 purpose." Should the federal law allow use of these federally
 controlled drugs for the purpose of assisted suicide and

 euthanasia?

 29% YES
 65% NO
 6% DON'T KNOW/REFUSED


The margin of error was 4.3%, with a 95% confidence interval, meaning that if every American had been asked the question, 95 out of 100 times the results would have been within 4.3% of those given by this sample.
COPYRIGHT 1998 National Right to Life Committee, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:National Right to Life News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 11, 1998
Words:726
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