Pro-Euthanasia Groups Finalize Merger, Will Promote Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 19, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Euthanasia Groups Finalize Merger, Will Promote Assisted Suicide Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 19, 2004

Portland, OR ( — Two groups that support euthanasia have finalized a deal to merger into what they hope will be a larger, more powerful entity that will be a vehicle to lobby new states to approve laws allowing assisted suicide.

The Compassion in Dying Federation, based in Portland has led the legal defense of the law allowing assisted suicide in Oregon, the only one of its kind in the nation. The group will merge with the Denver-based End-of-Life Choices, formerly known as the Hemlock Society.

The two groups will become Compassion & Choices and will keep their offices in the two western cities. The Portland office will keep its focus on legal efforts while the Denver office will engage in lobbying and building membership.

Claire Simons, a spokeswoman for CID, admitted that her group needs help in expanding assisted suicide beyond Oregon.

"We’re tired of being the sprouts-chewing liberals out in Oregon," she admitted to the Associated Press in June, when talks first materialized. "We need another state."

The boards of both organizations held a meeting in Portland at the end of October to finalize initial talks of a merger.

Dr. Robert Brody, the head of a pain clinic located at San Francisco General Hospital, will be the new chairman of the nine-member board of directors. He told the Portland Oregonian newspaper the new board will hold its first meeting in January.

Pro-life advocates say the combined organization would increase the political clout and strength of the nation’s euthanasia advocates and are calling on the pro-life community to redouble its efforts to stop additional states from legalizing assisted suicide.

"Until recently, Hemlock operated on the margins of the law, stressing pro-death counseling services and instructions," explains Tom Marzen, a pro-life attorney who monitors end of life issues. "Compassion stressed working through the law, as with the Oregon pro-assisted suicide law and cases it brought trying to legalize the practice."

Marzen told that the joining of the two groups, "probably means they are retooling and restructuring for an effort to win hearts and minds, especially in the medical professions and state legislatures."

"Pro-lifers had best take a page from their lesson book and form strong alliances with those especially threatened by euthanasia — older people and people with disabilities," Marzen added.

End of Life Choices was founded by Derek Humphrey, author of a how-to euthanasia book called Final Exit that has sold more than one million copies. The group dropped the Hemlock Society moniker last year in order to enhance its public relations efforts.

Oregon’s assisted suicide law is possibly headed to the Supreme Court. The state sued to strike down a decision by Attorney General John Ashcroft prohibiting the use of federally controlled drugs in assisted suicides there.

Ashcroft ruled that the drugs used in assisted suicides in Oregon violated the Controlled Substances Act because killing a patient does not constitution a "legitimate medical purpose."

An appeals court disagreed with Ashcroft, and the Bush administration, earlier this month, submitted an appeal of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

All of the 171 assisted suicides in the state have used the federally controlled drugs.

Pro-euthanasia groups have tried, and failed, to approve the grisly practice through ballot proposals in Maine and Michigan and legislation has ultimately failed in Hawaii, Vermont and Wyoming.