Editor's note: On June 5 Attorney General Janet Reno
removed the final obstacle to Oregon's doctor-assisted suicide law by deciding
that physicians may provide lethal doses of medicine to terminally ill
patients without losing their licenses to write prescriptions --overturning
the position taken by the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration who
had said that doctors who prescribe drugs under Oregon's assisted-suicide
law could face severe sanctions.
- Oregon on the slippery slope?
- 'Nobody has really noticed'
In the last weeks of March, a number of news articles publicized
the first reported death under the new Oregon assisted suicide law. Steven
L. Drake of Not Dead Yet writes:
It's important to keep in mind that we do not know if the woman was
really the first to do this under the law. Nor do we know how many others
there have been -since it turns out there was at least one other person
before her, who has not been named.
The person we have the most information on is a woman in her mid-80s
who was in the final stages (allegedly - all of this is taken on faith
since her name and records were not released) of breast cancer. Her reason
for wanting to die? Unbearable pain? Nope. In a tape recording she complained
that her mobility was impaired and she has some difficulty breathing. She
had not lost the ability to walk - it had simply become more difficult.
So the argument that has been promoted - that this is something for people
in the most extreme circumstances of unrelievable pain - is not borne out
in this case.
Reports say the woman had to go to three doctors before she could get
one who would "help" her. According to reports, the second doctor
refused to give her a lethal prescription because she appeared depressed.
The third doctor, whose name was given to the woman by the pro-euthanasia
group Compassion in Dying, felt that she was "frustrated and crying
because she was powerless." Instead of finding ways to help her out
of the feeling of powerlessness, he gave her a ticket out of living. So
much for the safeguard about screening for depression.
There doesn't seem to have been a lot of critical or thoughtful commentary
on the information coming from Oregon. Supporters see it as working out
wonderfully (although a recent fundraising letter issued by Compassion
in Dying stated that the newest battle would be to secure the "right"
to assisted suicide for people who were not within a few months of death
by terminal illness). Right-to-life commentary seems to have been limited
to "God have mercy on us," sentiments I sympathize with but don't
find helpful in terms of being persuasive in opposing the pro-euthanasia
A March 29 New York Times editorial said Oregon was the answer to stopping
Kevorkian and possible clones. More lack of critical thinking. Kevorkian
has stated he will ignore any law and continue to follow his own illusory
guidelines.The most troubling thing to me is that not only has Oregon started
to "slide down the slippery slope" in a very short time, but
nobody really has noticed. They're too busy talking about how well it's
"Dr. Jack Kevorkian helped a 21-year-old quadriplegic man, who
was not terminally ill but who could not breathe without a life-support
machine, to commit suicide. Do you think physician-assisted suicide should
be permitted for non-terminal cases?"
- 69.57% Yes
- 30.43% No
March 5 results of a Mother Jones magazine online "Snap Poll"