Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
A Republican senator and physician says the Supreme Court’s ruling this week upholding the state of Oregon’s assisted-suicide statute is wrong not only because of its questionable constitutionality but also because a doctors’ responsibility to patients is to heal them, not harm them.
“Nowhere does our Constitution give doctors the right to take the lives of their patients,” said Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. “Deliberately causing death is never a legitimate medical purpose. By creating another class of human beings whose lives have no value, the Supreme Court has put all vulnerable persons at risk.”
In upholding Oregon’s 1997 law, the court ruled Tuesday the Bush administration improperly wanted to punish doctors who assist in suicides under federal medication statutes. The administration had argued it has the authority to do so because it already can regulate medications used by doctors in assisted suicide cases.
Coburn, a doctor who specializes in family practice and obstetrical medicine, said a number of patients in places where euthanasia is legal are killed every year without their consent – a phenomenon he worries could happen in Oregon.
He also says assisted suicide, like abortion, is just another way the country is attempting to cheapen life.
“… Granting doctors the god-like power to decide at what point life has value and when it does not has led to the killing of babies, the elderly, depressed and handicapped,” he said. “I’m disturbed that the Supreme Court took our nation farther down that dark road. …”
Coburn’s office released data from a pair of studies conducted by Dutch researchers over a 10-year period, which indicated at least 1,000 patients in the Netherlands – where euthanasia is legal – are killed every year without their consent. The data, his office said, was first published by The Lancet, a British medical journal.
Physicians in the Netherlands must follow strict euthanasia guidelines. In order to kill a patient, doctors must:
- be convinced the patient’s decision was made voluntarily and while rational;
- be convinced the patient was suffering in a way that could not be mitigated;
- have informed the patient of his or her medical condition and the ramifications thereof;
- have reached the conclusion, with the patient, there is no other reasonable alternative;
- have consulted at least one other physician, and;
- have carried out the procedure in a medically appropriate manner.
Though the Netherland’s law is unique, other nations have considered adopting similar statues. Activists in France, Britain, Belgium and Australia have pushed for the approval of euthanasia laws.
In fact, in 1996, Australia’s Northern Territory became the first area in the world to legalize euthanasia. However, the law was overturned after nine months.
Coburn, who has a strong history of backing pro-life measures in Congress, served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001. He retired to fulfill a self-imposed three-term limit.