Human Exceptionalism

The Slippery Slope Slip-Sliding Away in Oregon

Here is an interesting–and predictable–turn of events: Two nurses are being investigated by law enforcement for engaging in assisted suicide, although the facts look more like a euthanasia. From the story:

Two Portland-area nurses gave [cancer patient Wendy Melcher] massive amounts of drugs intended to cause her death. The drugs were administered in what the nurses would later call an assisted-suicide plan directed by Melcher. The nurses have admitted to the Oregon State Board of Nursing that they administered doses of morphine and phenobarbital without informing Melcher‘s physician. Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act–the only such law in the nation–allows assisted suicide but only with the assistance of a physician.

Another aspect of the law, apparently violated, was self-administration. But what is very notable is that this matter was previously investigated by the nurse licensing board in Oregon, which gave these apparent killers bare slaps on their wrists, and did not notify law enforcement! Again, from the story:

Among the issues authorities are expected to look into is how the state nursing board investigated the case and how it punished the nurses. The board, which oversees nurses in Oregon, was alerted to the case nearly two years ago, shortly after Melcher‘s Aug. 23, 2005, death. That death occurred four days after the nurses administered the drugs.

But the board took more than a year to complete its investigation, which found the nurses did, in fact, participate in a suicide plan.

The board did not report the nurses to criminal justice authorities for further investigation. The board did allow nurses Rebecca Cain and Diana Corson to keep their licenses and to continue practicing nursing, Cain with a two-year probationary period and Corson after a 30-day license suspension.

Not only are the actions of the nurses and reaction of the Board a pernicious assault on the integrity of the nursing profession, the alleged killings and subsequent lack of meaningful punishment are a direct challenge to the oft-repeated assertion that assisted suicide can be strictly controlled in Oregon. If the nurses did the deed–which appears likely given their admissions–and if they are not prosecuted now that it has all come to light; and if found guilty, they are not meaningfully punished, then toss all of the bromides about guidelines protecting against abuse into the trash.

Kudos to the Portland Tribune, a freely distributed, twice weekly alternative newspaper, for reporting this story. But I did a Google search and noted that there are no other stories out about this case. So, where is the Oregonian? Where are the other mainstream media outlets? Absent, apparently–which does not surprise. One of the major tools of media bias is to not report stories or facts that contradict the accepted story line, which in this case, is that Oregon’s law is just hunky-dory.

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