American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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Senate withdraws bill targeting physicians

From the November 1998 ACP-ASIM Observer, copyright © 1998 by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.

Largely because of pressure from ACP-ASIM and the Coalition to Improve Pain Management, a group the College helped found, the Lethal Drug Abuse Prevention Act will not be enacted this year.

Supporters of the measure originally sought to enact the bill this year as a freestanding measure. When it appeared there was not enough time or support to pass the bill, however, its backers moved to include it in the federal budget package, which had to be passed to keep the government running. In mid-October, the Senate dropped the bill from the budget package.

If the bill had passed, a physician could have lost his DEA license if the agency could show that the physician intended to prescribe drugs to help patients end their lives. The College opposed the bill, arguing that physicians would be more reluctant to prescribe pain medication and that patient privacy would be jeopardized by the disclosure of confidential information during investigations.

Although the bill was defeated this Congress, the bill's chief sponsor, Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.), promised to introduce it again next year.

For more on Congress' actions in health care, see Washington Perspective.

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