PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon taxpayers should help pay for the doctor-assisted suicides of terminally ill poor people, the Health Services Commission decided Thursday.
The panel voted, 10-1, that delivering lethal doses of prescription drugs should be included as a "medical service" for the 270,000 low-income residents covered under the state's health plan.
The law, passed in 1994 and affirmed in 1996, allows doctors to prescribe lethal drugs at the request of patients who have less than six months to live.
Commission Chairman Alan Bates said his experience as a family physician convinced him the law is a compassionate policy that eases suffering. He said religious opponents have no right to impose their moral views on others.
"Physician-assisted suicide has been going on for years," Bates said. "In Oregon, we're just bringing it out in the open."
The law's most outspoken opponent by far is the Oregon Catholic Conference. "There would be no more tragic discrimination against the poor than to allow them to be killed," said conference spokesman Bob Castagna. "That is the ultimate discrimination."