Cancer Patient Asks To End Life

Dying of ovarian cancer, Penny Schleuter could be the next person to make use of Oregon's death with dignity act. CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes reports.

Penny Schleuter has requested from her doctor, a dose of medication to end her life and in Oregon that is legal.

"I look at this as an insurance policy. It doesn't mean I'll necessarily use it, but it's there and the fact that it's there provides the comfort," said Schleuter.

Just this week the state of Oregon released preliminary data showing that in the first ten months it was legal only ten people requested the assisted suicide option. The average age of the patient was 71, all but one were dying of cancer and eight of the ten took their own lives.

Dr. Nancy Crumpac Ker was the physician for two patients who died before using their drugs.

"There are not hundreds or thousands of people flocking," said Dr. Crumpacker. "People still want to hang on as long as they can."

The Oregon Catholic Conference says it isn't a matter of numbers it s a matter of ethics.

"When we as a people cross an ethical, and legal and moral boundary line that no other society has seen fit to cross, namely legalization and decriminalization of Physician assisted suicide that should trouble all Americans!" Said Robert Castagna at the conference.

Opponents of assisted suicide have not been successful here in Oregon, but their efforts have helped in stopping the spread of the movement.

After voters passed the Oregon "Death With Dignity Act", twenty states were said to be considering similar measures but not one state has passed a similar law.

Five states have actually passed laws banning assisted suicide, and congress is even considering legislation that would nullify the Oregon law.

Both sides on this legal and ethical debate have made the Oregon law their business... and are awaiting a more in-depth study to be released early next year which will put a face on the people who choose the right to die.

Written by CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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