A year after Oregon's "Death with Dignity" law made it legal for
physicians to help certain patients take their own lives, this
profound and controversial measure has begun to have significant
impact across the United States.
It has prompted a congressional attempt to restrict the use of
certain federally controlled drugs that could expedite death. It has
accelerated the use of hospice and palliative care for patients
diagnosed as terminally ill. Above all, it has become a major issue
for religious and other groups commonly associated with the fight to
Gary Bauer, head of the conservative Family Research Council and
possible candidate for the presidency, recently called the fight to
prevent physician-assisted suicide "the front line of the battle to
protect the sanctity of human life."
Other anti-abortion organizations have weighed in as well.
Burke Balch, medical ethics director for the National Right to
Life Committee, says doctors who provide drugs designed to take a
patient's life and pharmacists who prescribe such drugs "should have
their licenses revoked."
Religious groups weigh in
Meeting in Washington this week, Roman Catholic bishops are
working on a proposal to make assisted suicide - along with abortion
- one of the church's top political priorities.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints actively opposes
the practice as well. Mormon Church officials have declared that
hastening the end of one's life undermines the "measures designed to
maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of
Church spokesman Don LeFevre recently told the Deseret News in
Salt Lake City that taking part in suicide or euthanasia "violates
the commandments of God."
Following Oregon's groundbreaking move, critics warned there would
be a spurt of secretive Kevorkian-type demises, that out-of-staters
would rush here to commit suicide, that safety measures built into
the law would fail and strictly controlled suicide would become
None of that has happened. Only about a dozen individuals have
ended their lives under the law, which requires a 15-day waiting
period and a second opinion as to the patient's mental condition,
which specifically prohibits "lethal injection, mercy killing, or
active euthanasia." Caution seems to have been the byword as medical
professionals and their patients move into this controversial new
world touching on the most profound of questions. …