New Congressional Bill Would Restrict Drugs Used in Assisted Suicides

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 6, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New Congressional Bill Would Restrict Drugs Used in Assisted Suicides Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 6, 2006

Washington, DC ( — A leading pro-life senator has introduced new legislation to restrict the use of federally controlled drugs in assisted suicides. If Congress approves the bill and President Bush signs it into law, it would stop the use of drugs in all of the assisted suicide cases in Oregon, the only state to legalize the practice.

The new legislation, the Assisted Suicie Prevention Act, follows on the heels of a Supreme Court decision in January prohibiting the Bush administration from restricting the use of the drugs.

In a 6-3 decision, the high court ruled that the Bush administration could not use the Controlled Substances Act, which governs illegal narcotics, to stop the use of such drugs in assisted suicides.

However, the decision paved the way for Congressional legislation to accomplish the same purpose and Sen. Sam Brownback hopes to promote a bill to do that.

“When the law permits killing as a medical ‘treatment,’ society’s moral guidelines are blurred, and killing could gain acceptance as a solution for the chronically ill or vulnerable,” Brownback said in a statement obtained.

“Doctor-assisted suicide could actually create a financial incentive for insurance companies to encourage prematurely ending the lives of those in need of long-term care," Brownback added.

Still, Brownback said the bill would not unfairly punish doctors who are trying to provide patients with legitimate pain relief medication.

"By only penalizing doctors for using a federally-controlled substance for the stated or undisputed purpose of assisted suicide … the bill does not constrain doctors from offering palliative care that brings pain relief to patients," the Kansas Republican explained.

Last May, Brownback chaired a Judiciary Committee hearing to examine the impact of assisted suicide in places where it has been widely practiced.

Several experts testified that in countries like the Netherlands and Belgium, where assisted suicide is legal, doctors have started experimenting with euthanasia and infanticide.

A September 2005 article in the U.K. medical journal The Lancet reported that half of the newborn babies who died in Flanders, Belgium between August 1999 and July 2000 were “helped” in that regard by their doctors.

“The American Medical Association and disability rights groups are strongly opposed to physician-assisted suicide because it is antithetical to the doctor’s role as a healer and it jeopardizes the ability of the infirm and helpless to defend themselves," Brownback said.

"I doubt Americans want the government to decide when life is worth preserving and when life can be destroyed," he concluded.

In 1990, the Supreme Court ruled that patients had a right to refuse lifesaving medical treatment and, in 1997, the court ruled unanimously that there is no constitutional right to assisted suicide but that states may ban or allow the practice.

ACTION: Contact your U.S. senators and ask them to support the Assisted Suicide Prevention Act. You can find complete contact information here.