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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended April 30, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 02May00

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 law.

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.


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