Archive for Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Senator wants to block assisted suicide

August 16, 2006


— A Kansas senator wants to block Oregon's landmark law allowing doctor-assisted suicide.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., has introduced legislation that would bar doctors from prescribing federally controlled drugs for use in assisted suicide.

Brownback's bill, dubbed the Assisted Suicide Prevention Act, marks the first legislative assault on assisted suicide since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Oregon's law in January.

"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," said Brownback, a favorite of religious conservatives who is considering a run for president.

'Rallying point'

Brownback said in an interview that he did not expect the bill to become law this year but said it was important to bring up the bill as a "discussion point and hopefully as a rallying point for those opposed to assisted suicide."

Brownback said his bill would specifically address the Supreme Court ruling, which said the Bush administration overstepped its authority when it sought to overturn the Oregon law.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., immediately opposed the bill, saying through a spokeswoman that he would do everything in his power to block the legislation, including a filibuster.

Wyden had vowed after the Supreme Court ruling that he would object to any measure that might affect end-of-life care generally and Oregon's law in particular.

Wyden's spokeswoman, Melissa Merz, called Brownback's bill the latest in a series of proposals by Senate Republicans to appeal to their conservative base, citing a proposed constitutional amendment on flag burning and a bill to ban gay marriage, among others.

"As we've seen in recent months, the Senate leadership has brought up these types of divisive social issues instead of addressing the serious issues that affect the country," Merz said Tuesday. "We expect more of that when we come back in session in September."

Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., could not be reached for comment Tuesday. But his office said Smith stands by a statement he made in January that the Supreme Court decision should be the final word on the much-disputed law, which was twice approved by Oregon voters.

Smith, a Mormon who opposes assisted suicide, called the issue settled law and added: "I accept the Supreme Court's decision, and Congress should do the same."

Kathryn Tucker, legal director for Compassion & Choices, a Portland group that supports assisted suicide, said Brownback's bill would make doctors fearful of being second-guessed by federal regulators when treating pain.

"We already know physicians undertreat pain. It's a serious problem, and we should not exacerbate that by giving physicians reason to be afraid to give dying patients comfort from pain," she said.

Brownback disputed that, saying that because his bill targets use of a federally controlled substance for the stated or undisputed purpose of assisted suicide, it does not hinder doctors from offering pain relief to patients, even if such treatments could hasten death.

Tucker and other advocates said they were confident they could defeat Brownback's effort, noting that the public expressed widespread disdain after Congress intervened in the Terri Schiavo case in 2005.

"The takeaway message from that debacle is that citizens across the country do not want politicians stepping in between the patient and the doctor at the bedside," Tucker said.

Wyden's spokeswoman, Merz, said Wyden will place a public "hold" on Brownback's bill when Congress returns after Labor Day. The action means Wyden is prepared to filibuster the legislation to prevent its passage. Supporters of the bill would need 60 votes to shut down a filibuster.


Frank Smith 11 years, 9 months ago

From The Nation, a year ago...

Senator Brownback's Blind Ambition Tour...

Brownback's ambition is becoming clearer by the day. He has already made trips to the primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire. And just as his likely contender for the Republican nomination, Senate majority leader Bill Frist, exploited Terri Schiavo to burnish his "culture of life" credentials with the GOP's religious base, Brownback has used Julie Finley. The difference is that Frist got burned publicly and was widely criticized for his maladroit handling of the Schiavo affair, while Brownback received credit from the religious right for standing up on principle to President Bush, while most of the mainstream media gave him a pass. Having reaped the political benefits of opposing Finley, Brownback quietly lifted his hold on her nomination on June 10. With social legislation as his tool, Brownback leverages the support of the Christian right forces, which helped lift him from obscurity more than a decade ago. The culture war also serves as Brownback's means to divert attention from the alliances with elitist religious cults and corporate front groups he has assiduously cultivated throughout his career.

Frank Smith 11 years, 9 months ago

Well, Senator Sam is being consistent as ever. He is trying to stop Oregon, whose voters twice passed an assisted suicide bill, from exercising local control. He is normally a big fan of local control, especially as regards schools. Unless, of course, local control involves California voters passing a law to encourage stem cell research, or D.C. passing gun control measures, or Massachusetts allowing gay marriages. He helped stop "country of origin" labelling that would have protected Americans from mad cow disease, but he wanted to strengthen restrictions on importation of beef from low-risk countries. He's promoted democracy in Lebanon unless of course voters there elect 14 Hezbollah representatives to their legislature in which case we should support Israel's invasion. He's against allowing women carrying immensely disabled fetuses to end their pregnancies, but he's okay with the killing of over 100,000 Iraqi civilians in the furtherance of "democracy," since we weren't able to find any WMDs to justify our illegal invasion of that country. Excuse me. I'm getting dizzy. I need to sit down.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 9 months ago

""When the law permits killing as a medical 'treatment,' society's moral guidelines are blurred,"

Assisted suicide is not a medical treatment-- it is the recognition that when medicine has no treatment to offer a terminally ill patient, it should be able to assist the patient in relieving their suffering the only way possible.

jonas 11 years, 9 months ago

The title of this article really should have been: "Senator wants to Run For President One Of These Days."

Brownback consistently makes me hate politicians.

Jamesaust 11 years, 9 months ago

So for Brownback its:

A. the ends justify the means and let our federal system be damned, or

B. Congress has better judgment than the States, so if Congress wanted to REQUIRE every state to allow assisted suicide that would be just as good.

Which Sam?

xenophonschild 11 years, 9 months ago


Good posts. When I was a boy, it was fairly common for men diagnosed/suffering with a terminal disease to "eat a shotgun."

Never did feel comfortable using the bathroom in my Uncle Wesley's house thereafter.

Brownback is pond scum. A rural variety dressed up to look presentable to fundie fruitcakes, but pond scum nonetheless. The terminally-ill deserve more than a cold shoulder from those who get their intellectual grounding inre "suicide" from Camus' "The Myth of Sisyphus."

Farmboy 11 years, 9 months ago

It's interesting that Topeka Capital-Journal, once owned by Brownback wife's family (his father-in-law still serves on editorial board) seldom reports on the Senator's activities or his presidential aspirations.

Thanks to the J-W for keeping us Topekans informed.

prioress 11 years, 9 months ago

Senator Sam is pretty good.......he knows all the buttons to push and promotes the 10th amendment when it suits his purposes. However, if he and his church cult decide you can't do something because their imaginary being told them so, they suddenly forget the constitution.

whistlestop75 11 years, 9 months ago

What's next? Taking away our right to exercise a DNR request? I am Republican...but am really getting tired of having the Republican Party come out with an extremely conservative platform on our individual rights as citizens instead of concentrating on the issues involving our nation's economy. I want to know HOW the Republican Party vs. Democratic Party is going to help pull this nation out of debt... I am really getting tired of them spending the taxpayers money developing more bills to take away our personal freedoms.....

whistlestop75 11 years, 9 months ago

Parkay....What is your problem? The people of Oregon voted on this is a state's right issue AND what is to prevent the government from outlawing your wishes on DNR's? I guess you would prefer to lie with no life and listen to your thoughts while your dignity is taken away...imagine hearing your aide complain because you wet/messed the bed about losing your legs because of bed sores that became rotted with gangrene...and you had no say because the medical authority decided that was the best course of action to keep you alive...assisted suicide? I think not...I think it is an act of humanity and I certainly want to have someone recognize my right of having a DNR respected...the government should stay out of personal wishes/choices when it deals with your right to die a dignified death.

xenophonschild 11 years, 9 months ago

"parkay" is really Kevin Groenhagen posting under another name.

The similarities in grammar and sentence structure - as well as right-wing fringe lunatic Republican ideology - are uncanny.

collinsja 11 years, 9 months ago

If Sen. Brownback doesn't want physician-assisted suicide, he shouldn't have it. On the other hand, it might be better for the general welfare of the country as a whole if he would do it. Since Oregon law requires a mental status assessment to show competency, Brownback would have trouble qualifying here since he sounds like a right-wing nut case, even if he did have the required terminal condition.

yourworstnightmare 11 years, 9 months ago

Old socialist Sam is up to his old tricks. The government has no business regulating business, but should be a nanny-government when it comes to peoples' personal lives.

Long live the Nanny-State.

yourworstnightmare 11 years, 9 months ago

""parkay" is really Kevin Groenhagen posting under another name."

This makes me feel better. It was a really sickening feeling I got when I thought that there could be TWO people so idiotic, vacuous, and stupid.

Diana Lee 11 years, 9 months ago

All of you who have mentioned how completely inconsistent this is with the right wing's purported love for state's rights are dead on.

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