House Approves Pain Relief Act as Tax Bill Attachment
As part of a tax relief bill passed yesterday on a 237-174 vote, House members yesterday approved Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles' (R-Okla.) Pain Relief Promotion Act (S. 1272), which would block Oregon's assisted suicide law CongressDaily/A.M. reports. But the bill now faces a potential veto from President Clinton and a filibuster in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) (Norton et al., CongressDaily/A.M., 10/27). Nickles' provision would prohibit doctors from prescribing "lethal doses of federally controlled drugs to terminally ill patients," effectively voiding Oregon's law (Barnett, Portland Oregonian, 10/26). Several medical groups maintain the bill would "deter pain treatment [on a nationwide scale] by putting the Drug Enforcement Administration in charge of determining if a physician prescribed high doses of painkillers in an attempt to alleviate pain or assist in a suicide" (Rovner, CongressDaily, 10/26). Clinton has said that he would veto the tax bill because he opposes some of its other provisions, including $28 billion in Medicare givebacks (see story #1), but the "White House has said little about" the pain relief act, the Oregonian reports. Both Attorney General Janet Reno and White House advisers "have raised objections" to pain relief act. Although Clinton "opposes the practice of assisted suicide ... it's unclear whose advice he would heed," the Oregonian reports (Portland Oregonian, 10/26). While Wyden has "vowed ... all year" to filibuster the measure should it reach the Senate floor, he "has not [yet] decided what to do," CongressDaily reports. A Wyden aide said this week that the senator "reserves the right to filibuster" (CongressDaily, 10/26). Wyden said he "remained uncertain about" the pain relief bill's fate because the president's veto letter did not address it, but added, "I'm ruling out no options. There will be no time agreement unless it is clear that the will of Oregon voters ... is taken into account" (CongressDaily/A.M., 10/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.