WASHINGTON (March 27, 1998) -- Cardinal Bernard Law, Chairman of the Bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities, has issued a statement commenting on reports this week about the initiation of assisted suicides in Oregon. The statement appears below.
CHAIRMAN, NCCB COMMITTEE FOR PRO-LIFE ACTIVITIES
March 27, 1998
This week Oregon's macabre experiment in assisted suicide claimed its first known victims. An elderly woman with cancer ingested a lethal overdose of barbiturates under the state's new law. Initial reports suggest that at least one other person has died in this manner. Any suicide is an enormous tragedy, a personal loss as well as a loss to us all. Government-approved suicide of the elderly and vulnerable is a sign of moral collapse. Oregon now sends a message of despair to all who may be tempted to view death as a solution to human problems.
Concerned Americans who view this situation with alarm should know that our federal government holds the authority to address it. The only way a physician in the United States can legally prescribe or distribute barbiturates is by invoking his or her federal registration from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which provides access to controlled substances solely for legitimate medical purposes. The DEA concluded in November that deliberately helping to cause a person's death is a misuse of federally controlled drugs; yet the Justice Department has subjected this ruling to further review and has yet to issue a final decision. In the absence of such clarification, the government is abdicating its responsibility by allowing continued access to these drugs for lethal purposes.
Federal policymakers must address this issue now, by declaring that federally regulated drugs cannot and must not be used by physicians to assist their patients' suicides.