AMA Vote Targets Assisted Suicide
Dec. 09, 1999
SAN DIEGO (AP) _ The American Medical Association will continue to support legislation that would regulate the use of pain medication, despite objections from doctors who said the measure would be an intrusion into state-regulated medicine.
On the last day of a four-day AMA convention, a majority of nearly 500 delegates voted Wednesday to support the federal bill that would outlaw doctor-assisted suicide.
Many objected to the increased oversight the bill would bring, but delegates said it was more important to stop the physician-assisted suicide law adopted by Oregon voters in 1994 and to prevent other states from following that state's lead.
``It's a question of whether the ends justify the means,'' said Dr. Donald Schroeder of Eugene, Ore. ``I strongly oppose federal intervention, but I'm so opposed to physician-assisted suicide that I support this action.''
The House passed the Pain Relief Promotion Act in October in part because it had the backing of the AMA, which represents 300,000 doctors. Opponents of the bill had hoped the AMA would reverse its influential support before a Senate vote.
Among other things, the bill requires the Drug Enforcement Administration to revoke the license to prescribe controlled substances, such as barbiturates or morphine, and to pursue criminal charges against doctors who assist the suicide of a terminally ill patient, regardless of state law.
Although it contains other provisions, the bill's main goal is to undermine Oregon's ``Death with Dignity Act,'' the 1994 initiative that legalized doctor-assisted suicide for the terminally ill.
``This is a direct slap in the face of Oregon voters,'' said Estelle Rogers, executive director of Death with Dignity National Center in Washington, D.C.
The bill is not retroactive, so doctors who have assisted suicides in Oregon would not be prosecuted, according to the AMA. Last year, 15 physician-assisted suicides were reported to the Oregon health department.