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Free Euthanasia Essays: Oregon, Assisted Suicide and Right to Life

Oregon, Assisted Suicide and Right to Life

The reader of this paper will learn how the Right to Life movement is getting involved in a dramatic way in the assisted suicide battle in the state of Oregon. The NRLC(National Right to Life Committee), as well as the state RTL group, is participating in the court battle resulting from Oregon’s November, 2001 judicial challenge to Ashcroft’s decision — initiated to keep assisted suicide practices functioning smoothly in Oregon.

The National Right to Life Committee and Oregon Right to Life filed a friend of the court brief in the case challenging the recent decision of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft that the Controlled Substances Act does not permit the use of federally controlled drugs for assisted suicide. Under the Ashcroft decision, physicians who prescribe controlled drugs for assisted suicide could lose their licenses to prescribe any federally controlled drugs, which would effectively end the medical practice of many doctors. The brief supports the position of the United States, arguing that the Ashcroft decision should be upheld. (Oregon)

In November of 2001, the State of Oregon brought suit against the Ashcroft ruling charging that it effectively nullifies Oregon’s law permitting physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill. Oregon is the only state to have legalized physician-assisted suicide. Oregon was joined in the suit, Oregon v. Ashcroft, by a number of persons seeking assisted suicide, a physician, a pharmacist, and an assisted suicide advocacy organization. Federal district court judge Robert E. Jones in Portland, Oregon, enjoined enforcement of the Ashcroft ruling pending prompt resolution of the case in his court. The National and Oregon Right to Life brief argues that Ashcroft’s decision was fully justified because the federal government can choose to protect all human life through its laws even if the State of Oregon has chosen not to do so. “Just because Oregon allows its doctors to prescribe lethal drug overdoses to patients doesn’t mean that the federal government has to agree that this is a legitimate medical use of the drugs,” said James Bopp, Jr., General Counsel of the National Right to Life Committee. “The Oregon tail doesn’t wag the federal dog. The U.S. government can protect all human lives even if Oregon turns its back on some of them.”

The brief also argues that the Ashcroft decision avoids constitutional problems by refusing to discriminate against terminally ill persons in enforcement of federal drug laws.

Free Euthanasia Essays: Problems With Assisted Suicide

Problems With Assisted Suicide

Americans want to know what the report card says, in other words, what are the results of the Netherlands and Oregon experiments with assisted suicide. Let’s sift through the data and relevant studies in order to arrive at a conclusion which either affirms or rejects the practice.

Although the New England Journal of Medicine article (2/24/00) was the first time a major medical journal in the United States had recounted problems associated with assisted suicide in the Netherlands, there had been prior warnings:

In 1995, Dr. Pieter Admiraal, who has practiced euthanasia in the Netherlands for years, warned of the risk of failure associated with assisted suicide. After explaining the preparations that must be made for an assisted suicide death, he wrote:

“In spite of these measures, every doctor who decides to assist in suicide must be aware that something can go wrong, with the result being a failure of the suicide. For this reason, one should always be prepared to proceed to active euthanasia. In other words, the doctor should always have at hand thiopental and muscle relaxant” (to administer in the form of a lethal injection). (Admiraal)

Barbiturates are the most common substances used for assisted suicide in Oregon and in the Netherlands. Overdoses of barbiturates are known to cause distress:

Extreme gasping and muscle spasms can occur. While losing consciousness, a person can vomit and then inhale the vomit. Panic, feelings of terror and assaultive behavior take place from the drug-induced confusion. Other problems can include difficulty in taking the drugs, failure of the drugs to induce unconsciousness and a number of days elapsing before death occurs. (NEJM)

Dr. Katrina Hedberg, a co-author of Oregon’s two official reports on assisted suicide, denies that there have been complications in assisted suicide deaths in Oregon. “Those things have not materialized,” she stated. (Oregonian)

But news reports from Oregon indicate otherwise:

* A man experienced difficulty during his assisted suicide death and his brother-in-law had to help him die. “It doesn’t go smoothly for everyone,” the person who helped explained. “It would not have worked without help.” [Oregonian, 1/17/99 and 3/11/99]

* In another case, after a man took the drugs intended to induce death, his physical symptoms were so disturbing that his wife called 911. He was taken from his home to a hospital where he was revived.

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