Portland, OR -- While counting on Oregon voters to give a big boost to his third-party bid for the presidency, Ralph Nader on Friday strongly condemned the state's first-in-the-nation law that legalized assisted suicide.
Hours before appearing at a rally that backers hoped would be his biggest campaign event of the year, the Green Party candidate told reporters he thinks Oregon voters made a mistake by twice endorsing a law that allows doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to the terminally ill.
The law was promoted by sponsors as a matter of patient choice but is open to abuse by doctors under financial pressure by health insurance organizations to hold down the costs of caring for the terminally ill, Nader said.
"It's cruel to people who would otherwise not want to die if they had adequate pain relief," Nader said at a news conference.
Political analyst Jim Moore said Nader's comments are consistent with his overall views about supposedly greedy corporations putting their own interests ahead of the interests of people.
Still, "it was silly thing to say, given that most of Nader's supporters in Oregon are also supporters of assisted suicide," said Moore, who teachers political science at the University of Portland.
Oregon's so-called Death with Dignity Act first was approved by voters in 1994, and at least 43 terminally ill people have used the assisted suicide law to end their lives since it cleared the final legal hurdles and took effect in October 1997.
Nader said he was worried that the law targets terminally ill patients who suffer from depression or who worry about being an undue financial burden to their relatives.
"Then along come doctors working for HMOs who are under pressure to cut costs, and the deed is done," he said.