Summarized by Kent Larsen
LDS Senator Faces Dilemna Over Physician Assisted-Suicide
(Oregon Republicans aren't pushing Smith to oppose assisted suicide)
Portland OR Oregonian (AP) 27Mar00 N1
The Associated Press
SALEM, OREGON -- Senator Gordon Smith, an LDS Church member and
conservative republican, is facing a difficult political situation.
The U.S. Senate will soon vote on the Pain Relief Promotion Act,
which would effectively keep doctors from using Oregon's
physician-assisted suicide law. As a republican and a conservative,
and as an LDS Church member, Smith would normally be expected to
support the law, and end the Oregon practice. But with a majority of
his constituents opposed to the measure, Smith could face a political
backlash if he ends physician-assisted suicide.
Oregon conservatives, who appreciate the difficulty of Smith's
position, aren't putting pressure on him as a result. State Senator
Eileen Qutub, who blasted Governor John Kitzhaber over his support of
assisted-suicide, isn't saing anything to Smith, "Gordon is a good
friend. I respect him so much. I don't want to be the one with the
bony finger pointing at him. That's something Gordon has to decide
University of Portland political scientists Jim Moore says that these
politicians have instead aimed to change public opinion, "They know
at the state level, assisted suicide stays. They're acknowledging
that whatever happens at the national level, Oregon remains strongly
committed to assisted suicide, and they have to live with that."
Smith hasn't said what he will do. An active LDS Church member, he
opposes assisted suicide, but is torn because of his constituent's
feelings. But he remains the only member of Oregon's delegation to
the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that hasn't come out
against the bill.
The LDS Church encouraged members in Oregon to vote for a 1997
referendum attempting to reverse the 1994 law, which was also passed
by referendum. Oregon is the only state that has allowed
physician-assisted suicide, but Michigan, Washington and California
have rejected it, and Maine has a state-wide referendum on the issue
on November's ballot.
The Pain Relief Promotion Act would prohibit the use of federally
controlled substances in physician-assisted suicides. A similar
measure passed the House last year, and the U.S. Senate's Judiciary
Committee, headed by LDS Church member and Senator Orrin Hatch,
scheduled a hearing on the bill for Thursday.