WASHINGTON (September 9, 1998)--The General Secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference (NCCB/USCC) has written to all members of Congress urging support for the Lethal Drug Abuse Prevention Act.
This legislation is urgently needed "if the federal government is not to be drawn into supporting the killing of vulnerable patients," wrote Msgr. Dennis M. Schnurr.
Enactment of the legislation (H.R. 4006/S. 2151) will correct a June 5 ruling by Attorney General Janet Reno which effectively authorizes use of federally regulated drugs to assist patients' suicides in any circumstance allowed by state law.
With his letter, Msgr. Schnurr enclosed materials to answer several arguments which have been raised against the proposed legislation. They included:
- A legal analysis by the NCCB/USCC Office of General Counsel showing that the legislation is consistent with the history and purpose of the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), longstanding principles of federalism, and respect for the legitimate use of drugs for pain relief.
- A fact sheet demonstrating that the CSA has always penalized health professionals for involvement in suicides and other lethal overdoses, and has used standards which are broader and less clearly defined than those of the proposed Act.
- A collection of quotes from respected medical experts confirming that this bill poses no threat to optimum pain management for seriously ill patients.
- An opinion piece from the Boston Globe by Dr. Ralph Miech, Associate Professor of Pharmacology at Brown University, making this case in greater detail.
- A side-by-side comparison of the legal situation with and without approval of this Act, illustrating how its changes to current law are in the direction of greater sensitivity to the needs of palliative care.
"Some medical groups have reacted negatively to this legislation, distrusting any new federal law regulating health professionals--especially legislation perceived as confirming the authority of the Drug Enforcement Administration to prevent wrongdoing by those professionals," Msgr. Schnurr stated. "Medical groups and medical experts who have looked beyond this prejudice have found the actual provisions of this bill to be reasonable and helpful. We believe that upon studying the facts, Congress will find this to be true as well," he said.