Washington -- The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved a pro-life bill that would prohibit the use of federally-controlled drugs to be used in assisted suicides and to promote palliative care as an alternative to assisted suicide.
The vote was 10-8, with just one Republican - Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania - voting against the pro-life bill, and one Democrat - Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware - voting for it. The bill, which passed the House of Representatives 271-156 on October 27, 1999, now moves to the Senate floor.
Before the committee's approval, Hatch attached an amendment that contains some changes sought by the American Medical Association, which supports the bill. The changes say states -- not the federal government -- will continue to regulate medical practices and that there must be "clear and convincing evidence" doctors were trying to aid in a patient's death before losing their licenses.
Wisconsin Right to Life Legislative Director, Susan Armacost said, "This important legislation would prevent the prescription of federally controlled drugs for assisted suicide or euthanasia while fostering the use of these drugs to alleviate pain. It clearly affirms that physicians may vigorously use these drugs to control pain, even if this entails the secondary, unintended risk of shortening a patients life."
Armacost continued, "The legislation also provides $5 million a year for grants to health professions schools, hospices and other entities for the development and implementation of programs to provide education and training to health professionals in palliative care. The purpose of such care is to alleviate pain and other distressing symptoms, not to hasten or postpone death. We look forward to full Senate action on this legislation."