Dear PCC member:
Please consider the following evidence taken directly from
the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) statistics. In states
where laws prohibiting assisted-suicide have passed, there
has been no "chilling effect." Furthermore, the Pain Relief
Promotion Act will specifically promote (in all fifty states)
appropriate and, if needed, aggressive pain relief for
all patients who would be helped by such supportive treatment.
Please share this information with anyone who may find
it of interest.
William L. Toffler MD
National Director, PCC
DEA FIGURES SHOW NO "CHILLING EFFECT"
The most recent DEA figures on per capita morphine use show
Oregon with the highest per capita consumption of morphine,
at 2332 grams per 100,000 population. Kansas is a very close
second, with 2287. Regarding Oregon itself, two comments
are in order. First, these figures do not indicate what the
morphine is used for. The Oregon Health Division says it
does not know how many unreported assisted suicides or cases
of active euthanasia may be occurring in the state due to
the greater freedom physicians feel they have under the new
assisted suicide law; some of these cases may use large doses
of morphine, as did one of the 15 reported cases in 1998.
Second, the per capita consumption now (2332) is slightly
less than it was during the first half of 1998 (2385), when
Oregon physicians were allegedly operating under the "chilling
effect" of threatened DEA action; from June to December 1998,
after attorney general Janet Reno rescinded the DEA's interpretation
of federal law and told Oregon it had a right to use controlled
substances for assisted suicide, the per capita rate fell
from 2385 to 2160.
Regarding other states:
- Of the top ten states, seven have specific statutes against
assisted suicide (Kansas, Florida, Arizona, New Hampshire,
Tennessee, Louisiana and Missouri). One state bans the practice
by common law (Vermont), and one has no law (Nevada).
- A legal vacuum on assisted suicide is certainly no guarantee
of free-wheeling pain control practices. The ranking in morphine
use for the other three states with no clear law on assisted
suicide are 35th (Wyoming), 46th (Utah) and 48th (Hawaii).
- The second-ranking state, Kansas, is an interesting case.
Kansas strengthened its ban on assisted suicide in 1998,
adding civil penalties to the existing criminal penalties
so family members and others can sue a doctor who assists
a suicide. Kansas was 35th in morphine use in 1997, the year
before the civil ban; 11th in the first half of 1998, before
the civil ban passed; 7th for the entire year of 1998; and
is now second highest.
- Louisiana passed its ban in 1995. It was 41st in morphine
use in 1994, the year before the ban; it is now 9th among
- Tennessee passed its ban in 1993. It was 16th in morphine
use in 1992, the year before the ban; it is now 8th.
November 15, 1999 (update will follow when new figures available).