House tries to limit Oregon's assisted suicide law
By Caroline Nolan/CNN
October 27, 1999
Web posted at: 5:31 p.m. EDT (2131 GMT)
WASHINGTON -- The House Wednesday affirmed its opposition to physician-assisted suicide, passing a controversial bill declaring the use of pain-relief medication for assisted suicide a violation of federal law.
The bill, which amends the Controlled Substances Act to make the administration of federally controlled drugs for the purposes of causing death illegal, passed 271-156.
Opponents of the bill, mostly Democrats, claimed it would subject health care practitioners to intense scrutiny and will prevent many of them from treating pain aggressively.
"No one should have to live and die in pain because a doctor is afraid to give higher levels of medication," Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-Oregon) said.
Oregon has a particular stake in whether this legislation becomes law, as it is the only state which allows euthanasia. Critics of the legislation claim it would preempt the Oregon law, since doctors would no longer be permitted to use federally regulated drugs for assisted suicide.
"It will nullify Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, which passed overwhelmingly in 1994 and 1996," said David Schuman, Oregon's deputy attorney general.
But supporters of the bill countered the criticism, denying it would allow the Drug Enforcement Agency to look over doctor's shoulders.
"This bill actually creates a reservoir of safety for doctors," said Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), a licensed physician. "If your intent is to eliminate pain, then you are without liability."
Sen. Dan Nickles (R-Oklahoma) has sponsored a companion bill in the Senate.