FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 24, 1999
Nashville, Tennessee--As part of his ongoing effort to lead the nation in improving the care of the dying, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. today will inaugurate the first meeting ever held by the National Association of Attorneys General to address legal and policy initiatives involving the care of the terminally ill.
Curran, together with Nevada Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa, requested the session to discuss their respective ground-breaking efforts to make state policy more supportive of good pain management, greater control by patients and their families over medical interventions, and changes in the health care system so that quality care at the end of life is available to all.
"This is an attempt to take the focus off the assisted suicide debate and start caring for the people who really need our help," said Attorney General Curran. "My office has taken the lead by initiating our Care of the Dying project. Now we want to spread that message across the nation."
Curran's office, for example, has been educating mursing homes on their legal obligation to respond when residents are in pain, including the appropriate use of narcotics. He also cosponsored, with the State Health Department, a conference for state personnel on models of excellent end-of-life care.
When the General Assembly passed Maryland's new criminal law banning assisted suicide, Curran went to the forefront to urge physicians and other health care professionals to continue their aggressive pain management efforts and not to interfere with decisions to forgo life-sustaining treatments.
"A law against assisted suicide is not an excuse to let patients suffer," says Curran. "Health care professionals need to know that they should not be afraid to ease a person's suffering through sensitive pain management."
The National Association of Attorneys General is the organization through which attorneys general take joint action and support various national policy initiatives. Curran will urge the association to make policy reforms on care of the dying an ongoing priority matter.
The association's meeting is being held in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition to Curran and Del papa, speakers will include a representative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation's largest health-related philanthropy, and Assistant Attorney General Jack Schwartz, Director of Health Policy Development in the Maryland Attorney General's Office and head of the Attorney General's Project on Care at the End of Life.