WASHINGTON (June 5, 1998) -- Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director for Policy Development, Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued the following statement with respect to the decision announced today by the Department of Justice:
"By ruling today that Oregon physicians may use federally regulated drugs to assist their patients' suicides, the Justice Department has abdicated its responsibility to protect vulnerable people from deadly harm.
Because all medical use of controlled substances in this country is licensed by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and is restricted to use for legitimate medical purposes, the DEA concluded last November that deliberately using these drugs to cause a patient's death would violate federal law. That is the morally and legally responsible course for our federal government to take.
Congress should address this issue quickly, making it clear that federally regulated drugs may not be used to assist suicides. An appropriate legislative remedy should also reaffirm that relief of pain and suffering is a legitimate and important use of federally regulated drugs--one that physicians should not hesitate to pursue as they help dying patients to live their last days in comfort and dignity."