Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities
National Conference of Catholic Bishops
Re: Attorney general Janet Reno's decision on use of federally regulated drugs for assisted suicide
June 5, 1998
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.
All medical use of controlled substances in this country is licensed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and is restricted to use for legitimate medical purposes. Therefore 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.