PRESS RELEASE - November 6, 2001
Physicians for Compassionate Care
P.O. Box 6042
Portland, Oregon 97228
(503) 533-8154; Fax (503) 533-0429
RULING DEFENDS SERIOUSLY ILL, PROTECTS DOCTORS
U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced November 6, 2001 it will
enforce the Controlled Substances Act uniformly across all 50 states.
This message powerfully affirms medical ethics and reassures doctors.
The ruling clarifies that aggressive pain management is legitimate
medical care even if it may increase the likelihood of death in rare
instances. By enforcing the law uniformly, DOJ will defend the lives
of seriously ill patients. More than 70 Oregon patients have been
given overdoses instead of care, all of them because of psychological
and social concerns, all of them using federally controlled substances.
Yet in protecting the seriously ill against the misuse of federally
controlled substances for assisted suicide in Oregon, the one state
where such a practice is legal, the ruling specifically said the
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will only need to look at the
assisted-suicide reporting forms themselves--which name the drugs
used--and therefore will NOT increase its scrutiny of physicians
using controlled substances for pain management in Oregon.
PCC is reassured by DOJ's enlightened clarification of federal law.
• Doctors are reassured that aggressive pain management will
• Doctors are reassured that the DEA will not be spotlighting
physician prescribing practices in Oregon.
• Doctors are reassured that the lives of seriously ill patients
will be defended.
In the ten states which have recently strengthened laws against
assisted suicide by incorporating language on pain control similar
to this ruling, the average percentage increase in per capita morphine
use the following year was over 50%. Between 1994 and 1997, when
there was a federal injunction forbidding assisted suicide in Oregon,
per capita morphine use doubled.
DOJ's ruling takes into account that the Oregon Medical Association
has an official stance opposing Oregon's assisted-suicide law.
DOJ's ruling includes those elements emphasized by the American
Medical Association's (AMA) official stance on pain care and assisted
suicide. It protects doctors who aggressively treat pain. And it
reaffirms the AMA ethic to never give patients lethal overdoses.
All statements may be quoted as from Dr. Gregory Hamilton, spokesperson
for PCC, where he is co-founder and past-president. For further information
call Dr. Hamilton at (503) 816-2224 or Dr. Petty at (503) 250-9724.
November 6, 2001.