U.S. Congress May Try to Kill Oregon's Assisted-Suicide Law

Article excerpt

Congress is getting into pain again, and pharmacists hope they won't feel it. The House is preparing to vote on the Pain Relief Promotion Act, whose main thrust is to gut Oregon's physician-assistedsuicide law. Introduced by Rep. Henry Hyde (R, Ill.) and now with 156 cosponsors, the act recognizes the legitimate role of controlled substances in pain management and palliative care but bars their use to end a life. The bill also calls for more research and education in end-of-life care for the terminally ill.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D, Ore.) has crafted a countermeasure to preserve his state's voter-initiated assisted-suicide law The aim of Wyden's Conquering Pain Act is to eliminate requests for assisted suicide through a federal effort to improve pain management and end-of-life care. One section would direct the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee to study the impact of paying for "drug therapy management services in pain and symptom management and palliative care services." The legislation defines drug therapy management services as "consultations with a physician concerning a patient that results in: the changing of the drug regimen; changing an inappropriate drug dose; initiating drug therapy for a medical condition; consulting with the patient or a caregiver in a manner that results in a significant improvement in drug regimen."

That definition fits R.Ph.s and is one reason ASHP and the American Pharmaceutical Association are backing Wyden's approach over Hyde's. Henri R Manasse Jr., ASHP's executive vp., called the measure "an important first step" toward addressing barriers to effective end-of-life care and pain management. Another reason is that both groups are officially neutral on physician-assisted suicide. They support a pharmacist's right to participate in the process or to refuse.

Hyde's bill is a refinement of an earlier version that went after the licenses of prescribers and dispensers of narcotics used in an assisted suicide. Dozens of healthcare and patient groups fought to sidetrack the bill last year. …