March 7, 2002
MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Stephenson
PHONE: 410-955-5384

Physician-Assisted Suicide or Physician-Assisted Dying: Who Decides?

Examining the State of the Debate in Oregon

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, on March 20, 2002, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., in Hurd Hall, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, features Marc Spindelman, assistant professor of law at the Ohio State Moritz University College of Law. An opponent of legal status for physician-assisted suicide, 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 from 1999 to 2001. Spindelman has taught and written extensively on the subject of assisted suicide. He is co-editor of The Future of Death: New Perspectives on Physician-Assisted Suicide and Active Voluntary Euthanasia (forthcoming).

The second presentation, April 11, 2002, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m, in Hurd Hall, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, features Barbara Coombs Lee, F.N.P., J.D., 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.
Reporter's Note:

To interview the speakers or Ruth Faden, Ph.D., executive director of the Phoebe R. Berman Bioethics Institute, call Gary Stephenson at 410-955-5384 or email him at


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