Summarized by Kent Larsen
Smith Defends Suicide Vote
(Smith defends his vote against suicide law)
Portland OR Oregonian 29Apr00 N2
By Tomoko Hosaka of The Oregonian staff
In his first return to Oregon since his decision, the senator says he was guided by personal convictions, not voters' opinions
PORTLAND, OREGON -- In his first appearance since announcing that he
would vote to end doctor-assisted suicide in Oregon, Senator Gordon
Smith (R-Ore.), an LDS Church member, defended his stance. Smith said
he was tired of being portrayed as conflicted about the bill and knew
his conscience demanded this decision.
"I ultimately decided that I'm just going to be square with the people
of Oregon and say what I have said before," Smith told a packed room at
Portland State University. Smith said that while the majority backed
assisted suicide, sometimes following the majority isn't the right
thing to do.
Smith spoke to a PSU political science class, which then peppered him
with questions about the decision. Students asked Smith about states'
rights, the effect his decision would have on the next election, and if
he considered a more moderate solution.
Smith talked to the class for an hour, explaining how he came to his
decision. He said there were three factors that led him to support the
federal bill, which prohibits using federally approved drugs for
assisted suicide, essentially keeping doctors from using the Oregon
First, Smith said, the U.S. Congress does have the right to create
rules for federally controlled drugs. "I do not believe Oregon has the
right to write federal law, any more than the federal government has
the right to write Oregon law," Smith said.
He then said that assisted suicide is bad government policy. Better
policy is to find wasy to relieve pain for the terminally ill,
according to Smith.
Finally, he said his personal convictions sealed his decision. Smith
said he had seen enough death, suffering and heartache to know that
there is a better way than assisted suicide. "I honestly believe that
there is a natural course to living and dying," said Smith. "I think we
should leave that to God and nature." Smith was once an LDS bishop and
a hospital volunteer in Pendleton, Oregon.
Many students in the class understood the decision and even praised his
decision. One student Rachel Rose, a senior, watched her father die of
cancer when she was 12 years old. As a result, she doesn't agree with
Smith's decision, but she does understand it, "I applaud him for
standing up for what he believes in."
Other students weren't so sure about the decision. Kim Jasper, a
graduate student at PSU, is concerned about Congress acting on an issue
she says belongs to the state. She also worries about the issue of
representation, "It's very serious when a representative declines to do
their representing," she said.
The class was arranged by professor Richard Clucas immediately
following Smith's public declaration of his decision. Clucas says he
doesn't think Smith will suffer any political setbacks as a result.
While some voters will be upset with him, the negative reactions may
subside before he faces re-election in two years.