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PRESS RELEASE - September 13, 2000

MOYERS SPECIAL SOFT SELLS OREGON ASSISTED SUICIDE

Last night's episode of a Bill Moyers special soft sells Oregon assisted suicide, overlooks documented abuses, and over emphasizes unsubstantiated benefits. The third section of a PBS special, "On Our Own Terms," discusses Oregon assisted suicide but fails to mention its problems.

Moyers ignores the fact that the first reported case of assisted suicide in Oregon was a woman diagnosed as depressed.(1) Yet, she was given assisted suicide through an assisted-suicide activist group without adequate treatment of her depression.

Moyers ignores the fact that an Oregon HMO has admitted it fully funds assisted suicide while it caps in-home palliative care (hospice) at a mere $1,000.(2) Letting Oregon HMOs restrict hospice funding is a far cry from good palliative care.

Moyers ignores the fact that Kate Cheney's psychiatrist determined she lacked competence due to dementia and was under pressure from her family; so, she was not eligible for assisted suicide. Yet, Kaiser Permanente HMO(3) simply obtained a competing mental health opinion and gave her assisted suicide anyway.

Moyers ignores the fact that Oregon Health Division reports failed to reveal known lingering cases of assisted suicide.(4) Failed overdoses of more than 90 pills of dangerous federally controlled substances are a far cry from good palliative care.

Contrary to Moyers's claim, there has been no significant ranking change for Oregon in per capita morphine use from 1990 to 2000, as documented by readily available DEA data. Physicians for Compassionate Care has repeatedly used this data to dispute false claims that Oregon may have somehow reached the "highest per capita use of morphine," which in fact it has not for any year since assisted suicide was introduced.

Assisted suicide, far from leading to better palliative care in Oregon, has led to assisted suicide for the depressed, assisted suicide for demented individuals in HMOs, lingering suicide attempts, and assisted suicide being funded by HMOs which restrict funding for palliative care. What vulnerable patients need is good pain treatment and palliative care, as encouraged by the Nickles/Lieberman Pain Relief Promotion Act, not lethal overdoses. Moyers's failure in accurate and complete reporting results in a dangerous and misleading soft sell for assisted suicide, which endangers improvement of pain treatment and palliative care in the entire country.

For further information call:
N. Gregory Hamilton, M.D. (503) 226-0558

1. Foley, K. & Hendin, H. The Oregon report: Don't ask, don't tell. Hastings Center Report, 5/99.
2. Hamilton, N.G. Testimony to US House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, 6/24/99.
3. Barnett, E. Is Mom capable of choosing to die? Oregonian, 10/17/99.
4. Hamilton, C.A. The Oregon report: What's hiding behind the numbers? Brainstorm, 3/00.

Physicians for Compassionate Care
P.O. Box 6042 Portland, Oregon 97228
(503) 533-8154;
Fax (503) 533-0429;
www.pccef.org

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Physicians for Compassionate Care Educational Foundation