Looks like Congress will pass a bill that makes
it clear that physicians can prescribe pain medication for terminally
ill patients, including those with cancer, without running afoul of
the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The DEA has charge of the
Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which says that physicians can
prescribe narcotics only for legitimate medical purposes.
Under current law, in a case where a patient dies in what appears to
be an assisted suicide, the DEA can conduct an investigation and
revoke the physicians CSA registration if he or she is found to
have prescribed federally controlled substances as part of an
assisted suicide, in 49 of 50 states. Often the State Medical Boards
are the first to act in these situations.
The House and Senate bills (H.R. 2260/S. 1272) give physicians wide
berth to use narcotics for the aggressive treatment of pain and
suffering, even if the use of these drugs has the unintended effect
of increasing the risk of death. In October, the House passed H.R.
2260, which has been endorsed by the American Medical Association
(AMA). Yank Coble, MD, secretary-treasurer of the AMA, says the two
bills provide a new and important statutory protection for
physicians prescribing controlled substances for pain....