Christian Doctors Group Backs Congressional Bill on Assisted Suicide Drugs

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 8, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Christian Doctors Group Backs Congressional Bill on Assisted Suicide Drugs Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 8, 2006

Washington, DC ( — A national organization for Christian doctors and medical professionals has announced it is supporting new legislation in Congress that would prohibit 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.

"Congress needs to clarify that while doctors must be empowered to prescribe medicines effectively to relieve pain, they must never abuse that power by helping to kill patients," said Dr. David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical Association.

The group has 17,000 members across the country.

"This bill simply reinforces what long-standing religious and secular principles have clearly articulated–that none of us is qualified to decide who lives and who dies," Stevens explained.

Stevens said the bill affirmed the Hippocratic promise to "neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect" that have protected patients from death by their physician.

Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback introduced the measure, which Stevens said would protect the elderly and disabled from abuse.

"Preventing assisted suicides prevents the abuse of depressed and vulnerable patients who might fall prey to the pressure of overly anxious heirs, cost-conscious HMO’s, tired caregivers, or short-sighted doctors who judge that a patient’s life is simply not worth living," Dr. Stevens explained.

CMA Associate Executive Director Dr. Gene Rudd also commented on the measure.

"Doctors are trained to heal and are focused on accomplishing that task. When healing is no longer possible, it’s all too tempting to throw up one’s hands in frustration and end the problem quickly with a few pills or an injection," he said.

The legislation 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.

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," he said.

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.

Related web sites:
Christian Medical Association –