Michigan: Anti-Assisted Suicide Campaign Begins

LANSING, Mich. -- Opponents of the ballot proposal that would legalize assisted suicide including the state's largest medical society launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign Monday to fight Proposal B.

The Michigan State Medical Society and Lt. Gov. Connie Binsfeld are among the members of Citizens for Compassionate Care, which formed to fight Proposal B on the Nov. 3 ballot. The Michigan Disability Rights Coalition, Right to Life Michigan, and representatives from the Baptist, Lutheran and Catholic faiths have also joined the group.

``If this many different organizations can have this many reasons for opposing Proposal B, then it must be bad legislation,'' said Cathy Blight, president of the 14,000-member Michigan State Medical Society.

Gary Pokorny, chief executive officer of the Grand Rapids-based Hanon McKendry advertising agency, presented three of the group's ads at a news conference Monday at the Capitol. Pokorny said the three ads cost $100,000 to make. He estimated it would cost about $300,000 to run them for a week.

One 60-second spot showed a scale, with the 11-page Proposal B on one side and weights representing the medical community, church leaders, the elderly and the disabled on the other side.

Another 30-second ad showed a match burning a copy of the Hippocratic Oath, the oath physicians take promising not to harm patients. The third ad, also 30 seconds, showed an elderly black man saying the proposal could harm minorities and the elderly.

"We're asking citizens across the state to think very, very deeply about the ramifications of Proposal B," said Kevin Kelly, managing director of the Michigan State Medical Society.

Kelly said the entire ad campaign could cost between $5 and $6 million. His group has raised $700,000 so far, he said.

Ms. Blight said the board of the medical society decided to join Citizens for Compassionate Care because of language of the proposal, not the ethical issues surrounding assisted suicide. She said many physicians objected to the steps they would have to follow under the proposal in order to avoid prosecution.

"If an individual physician treats a terminally ill patient one who is not seeking assisted suicide with large doses of pain medication and this results in hastening the patient's death, the physician could be charged with a five-year, $5,000 felony (under Proposal B)," she said.

Ms. Blight said some physicians were also opposed to the "chilling effect" the proposal could have on research about care for the terminally ill.

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the retired pathologist who brought the issue of assisted suicide to the fore in Michigan, was mentioned only briefly. Sen. William Van Regenmorter, who authored the ban on assisted suicide that went into effect Sept. 1, said Kevorkian can take advantage of Proposal B even though he doesn't have a valid medical license.

"All he has to do is find someone with a medical license. (Kevorkian partner) Dr. Georges Reding comes to mind," Van Regenmorter said.

"I would view this as an open invitation to Dr. Jack Kevorkian. This is his dream come true."

Dr. Ed Pierce, the head of the assisted suicide advocacy group Merian's Friends, said he's concerned that his group won't have the money to fight Citizens for Compassionate Care. Merian's Friends has raised $900,000, he said, but much of that has already been spent.

Source: Women and Children First http://www.prolife.org/wcf

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