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September 23, 1998 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1998-09-23

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 23, 1998

Physician-assisted suicide
forum provokes debate

Locking arms

FORUM
Continued from Page £
options, including hospice care and pain control.
"We've tried to write a proposal that's reasonable,
which will allow terminally ill, mentally-competent
adults to hasten their deaths," Pierce said. "People
on the whole want to live, and physicians want them
to live."
Most polls show popular support for physi-
cian-assisted suicide throughout the state, but
the proposal still faces a well-funded opposi-
tion.
Jessica Berg, academic director of the
American Medical Association Institute for
Ethics, commented on the legal and institution-
al complications the bill could face if approved.
"The Supreme Court has said ... it's really up to
states to decide on doctor-assisted suicide," Berg
said.
Berg compared the ballot proposal to the Oregon
Right to Die Law, which has similar provisions for
physician-assisted suicide, but not as many "safe-
guards." For example, it does not require a psychi-
atric consultation.
Berg added that the proposal could face chal-
lenges about the criterion chosen for beneficiaries
of the law. The proposal would open debate on
issues such as whether patients with one year to live
have the right to die, or whether a seven-day waiting
period is adequate.
These defined characteristics of the proposal
could be questioned in court, Berg said.
Berg also pointed to efforts by the
Republican-led federal government to pass a
law allowing the Drug Enforcement Agency to

restrict or punish physicians who prescribe
medication for assisted :suicide. Berg said the
bill could have a "chilling effect" on doctors
considering whether to help their patients end
their lives.
Berg added that the proposed bill would counter
the Supreme Court's earlier decisions, which allow
for states to legislate their own assisted-suicide
laws.
Mary Lindquist, director of Arbor Hospice, spoke
about the value of a dying person's last few days.
She emphasized the pain durng this period of time
can be greatly eased by medication.
"I have learned ... that so much can happen
in this time that is valuable to patients and their
family," Lindquist said. "With all the medica-
tion at our fingertips, we can keep patients
comfortable. We focus on living, not on dying."
The audience reacted with strong applause to
Lindquist's comments. People in attendance
were invited to ask questions and remark on the
issues.
At one point, John Severin, a family medicine
physician, raised the question regarding the pres-
sures facing elderly patients, who may be convinced
to consider physician-assisted suicide because of
outside pressures.
"My concern is that elderly patients are vulnera-
ble to social, economic and family pressures,"
Severin said.
Others saw greater danger in the proposed law.
"I believe this will very quickly deteriorate into
suicide on demand," said Mary Ellen Donnely, an
audience member.
- DailyStaff Reporter Karn Chopra contributed
to this report.

AP PHOTO
South African President Nelson Mandela give a consoling embrace to President Clinton during a meet-
ing with African American religious leaders in the White House yesterday.

SUICIDE,
Continued from Oage 1
RLM Presient Barbara Listing
said in an amtide published on the
organizaltionls \\bsitc that by :having
to pay to get signatures, Merian's
Friends showed the lack of support for
the bill.
"This initiatie wii only succeed
through misreprentation:7 Listing
said. "They will igore our legisatio
to revolutionize painmanagement. the
will ignore the hope for curing cancer
and they will try to rainn ash us into
believing that killing is a new form of
healing."
Fieger came out of now here and
gained the right to face oft with
Engler in November. ut he has been
using his much-publicized defense
of Kevorkian to appel to audiences.
Fieger said he does cot personally
support assisted suicid: or abortior
rather for him it is L ciil righMP
issue.
"Where is it in the constitution that
we gave away our bodies to the govern-
ment," Fieger said.
Fieger said he was surprised at the
opposition he has faced on the issue,
saying he couldn't believe "religious
radicals could be against ... mentally
competent adults making the decision to
die.
"Little did I know that the whole
organize! world would be against me."
Fieger said.
Englkr spokesperson John
Truscott said the governor's opposi-
tion to assisted suicide has not been a
major issue during campaigning so
far.
He said most people have already
made up their minds on assisted sui-
cide, and thpy w ill have their voices
heard on election day. 1
"We do not want to be a haven for
people who Niant to come and die,"
Truscott said.
Candidates fr other state offices are
split on the proposal. Sen. Alma
Wheeler Smith :D-Salem iwp.) sup-
ports the initiativealthough she says she
stll has some concerns about its word-
ng.
"We know that if we are seriou
concerned, we can amend the proposa.
with a two-thirds vote," Smith said.
"With the qualifers in the proposal, we:
have covered niost of the potential
problems."
Rep. Liz Briter (D-Ann Arbor)
is also in support of the Merion's
Friends language, Republican can-
didate Julie Knight prefers the law
already on the books. She said
legalizing assisted suicide wou i
open up a lot of problems for phyW
cians and patients.
"If a person wans to commit sui-
cide, they certainly don't need a physi-
cian," Knight said. "I heir job is to pro-
long life."
DAILY. DAILY. 0

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