Thursday, January 5, 2006

DEA and dying patients

The current New England Journal of Medicine has a perspectives piece by Timothy Quill and Diane Meier about the upcoming Supreme Court decision regarding the Oregon physician assisted suicide law (and whether the DEA or the state medical boards have the power to restrict physicians' use of controlled substances). Their take is that a decision in favor of the DEA will have a chilling affect on physicians' prescribing of controlled substances to dying patients, for fear of scrutiny for being involved in 'assisted suicide.' It is a chilling article and all I can say is that if the Supreme Court rules "against" the Oregon law, I hope Drs. Quill andMeier are wrong. A quote:

This type of DEA involvement in medical practice would adversely affect far more patients than those few who seek assistance with a hastened death in Oregon. If the government thus oversteps its legitimate role and expertise, allowing DEA agents, trained only to combat criminal substance abuse and diversion, to dictate to physicians what constitutes acceptable medical practice for seriously ill and dying persons, it will undermine palliative care and pain management for the much larger number of seriously ill patients in all states.

Free full-text is available.

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