July 1998: Anti-Assisted Suicide Bill Moves in Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) - Introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., the measure would prohibit the dispensing or distribution of a federally regulated drug for the purpose of assisting a suicide. Doctors who violate the law could lose their license to prescribe such drugs.

Bill supporters said the government has a legitimate interest in controlling the use of federally regulated drugs. Rep. Charles Canady, R-Fla., who chairs the panel, said allowing the drugs to be used for suicide defies common sense.

"Assisted suicide is not legitimate medical care," he said.

"I guess it all comes down to what you think a human life is worth," Hyde added.

Psychiatrist Herbert Hendin, medical director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told the subcommittee that depression often leads patients to become suicidal. Medical illness plays a role in 25 percent of all suicides, and those patients may change their minds if they receive treatment for depression, he said.

"These patients are not significantly different than patients who react to other crises with the desire to end the crisis by ending their lives," Hendin said. "Assisted suicide and euthanasia ... become easy ways of dealing with anxiety and depression, as well as pain in patients who become suicidal in response to serious or terminal illness."

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