Phil B.FontanarosaMD, Deputy EditorIndividualAuthorStephen J.LurieMD, PhD, Contributing EditorIndividualAuthor
To the Editor: The article by Drs Orentlicher
and Caplan1 is misleading. Contrary to their
assertion, the PRPA would give the Drug Enforcement Administration no new
power over most physicians. The act would nullify Oregon's current law2 that provides physicians with legal immunity for
knowingly writing prescriptions for deliberately lethal overdoses by declaring
that such practices will not count as the "legitimate practice of medicine."
Oregon could still pass a new statute granting physicians legal immunity for
assisting in suicide in other ways, such as carbon monoxide, firearms, other
lethal drugs, or even plastic bags. Since these can be quite effective in
causing death, objections to such alternative means must be to the aesthetics,
rather than the ethics, of physician-assisted suicide. The major departure
from current law is not excessive federal regulation of controlled substances
generally, but use of federal law to define "legitimate medical practice,"
something that has historically been left up to the individual states. We
agree that this raises serious questions as to the appropriate allocation
of power between states and the federal government in the control of medical
practice. But this general concern should not lead to alarmist and misleading
interpretations of this particular bill and its effect.
Lynn J, Annas G. Legislation and End-of-Life Care. JAMA. 2000;283(22):2933. doi:10.1001/jama.283.22.2931
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