The recent decision by U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft to challenge the legality of Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law has re-ignited debate over this thorny issue. Under Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, doctors can prescribe lethal medications to mentally competent patients with less than six months to live, as long as strict guidelines are followed.
In response to the fallout after Ashcroft's decision, the Phoebe R. Berman Bioethics Institute at Johns Hopkins will sponsor a two-part debate about whether the Oregon law should be allowed to stand, as part of the Harvey M. Meyerhoff Lectures on Ethics and the End of Life.
The first part--"The Death of 'Death With Dignity'?"--features Marc Spindelman, assistant professor of law at the Ohio State Moritz University College of Law and an opponent of legal status for physician-assisted suicide. It will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20, in JHH's Hurd Hall. Spindelman received his J.D. degree in 1995 from the University of Michigan and clerked in the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. He was the Reginald F. Lewis Fellow for Law Teaching at Harvard Law School from 1997 to 1999 and a Greenwall Fellow in Bioethics and Public Policy at the Georgetown University Law Center and Johns Hopkins from 1999 to 2001. He is co-editor of the forthcoming The Future of Death: New Perspectives on Physician-Assisted Suicide and Active Voluntary Euthanasia.
The second presentation, from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 11, in JHH's Hurd Hall, features Barbara Coombs Lee, co-author and chief petitioner of Oregon's Death With Dignity Act and president of the Compassion in Dying Federation, a national organization that seeks to expand end-of-life choices to include aid in dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults.
Lee, who favors patient rights under the Oregon law, received her undergraduate education at Vassar College and Cornell University and was certified as a family nurse practitioner and physician assistant by the University of Washington. She earned a J.D. degree in 1989 and since then has been a health policy analyst at George Washington University, administrator and counsel to the Oregon State Senate, a senior executive in a national health care company and a private-practice attorney.