December 06, 2006

Wyden blocks legislation to overturnOregon's physician aid in dying law

Brownback bill may surface in waning days of session

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Ron Wyden today took swift action to prevent the U.S. Senate from considering legislation that squarely takes aim at Oregon's physician aid in dying law and the will of the state's voters.

"We are just two months from Election Day in which local, state, and federal elections will be held. Many states will have numerous ballot initiatives covering every issue imaginable. Voters need to know they can debate even the most emotional wrenching issues through the ballot process and have their election results respected," Wyden said. This proposed legislation sends voters the message that if Congress doesn't like the conclusion your state comes to through a ballot initiative, your vote doesn't matter. I intend to make sure the votes of Oregonians matter."

Wyden continued, "The bottom line is that my colleagues should respect my state's decision once and for all."

Wyden today placed a "hold" on legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) that would overturn Oregon's unique Death with Dignity Act. The hold blocks the legislation from being voted on without 60 senators voting to lift the hold.

Wyden, who opposed physician aid in dying as an Oregon voter because of its potential impact on the poor elderly, said his fears had not been realized because of safeguards in the Act that appear to have worked well in preventing potential abuses.

"There is no constitutional issue at stake in this debate. It was a debate between the voters of Oregon at their dinner tables and at the ballot box," Wyden said. "When a state has spoken as clearly as ours has on this difficult issue, a Senator from one state should not seek to overturn another state's law based on his personal beliefs."

"I firmly believe that my election certificate does not give me the authority or the right to substitute my personal beliefs for judgments made twice by the people of Oregon," Wyden said. "While other states have considered physician aid in dying and have not adopted it that is their choice. Oregon's decision, reached through legal means, should be respected as well.

Brownback's legislation would overturn the Oregon law by amending the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to mandate that drugs that fall under the CSA cannot be used in physician aid in dying.

"The CSA was written to go after drug kingpins and doctors who might abuse their prescription powers," Wyden said. "It was not written to criminalize a very personal decision that patients, their families and their doctors may make about end of life issues."

Wyden stressed that overturning Oregon's Act would be a major setback to pain management in the country because physicians would be greatly concerned when it comes to using larges doses of drugs that dying patients may be able to tolerate but others might not.

As a matter of policy, Wyden publicly announces any holds or formal objection he lodges with regard to nominees or legislation.