It is unconscionable that assisted-suicide advocates in Maine and elsewhere claim that the Oregon experiment, which enables patient suicides, has somehow improved pain care and hospice in our state (Ed Langlois, 'Belgians, others model bills on Oregon assisted suicide,' Jan. 21). The facts do not support this claim.

Oregon's hospice system was well known and in place long before assisted suicide came to our state. The fact is, Oregon's morphine use has been high throughout the last decade.

There is no correlation between an increase in morphine use and state legalization of assisted suicide. In fact, the inverse is true. Of the top 10 states in morphine use per capita, six have laws specifically banning assisted suicide. The others, except Oregon, disallow the practice by enforcing medical ethics.

We do not accept the notion that suicide is a solution to end-of-life care, nor that the citizenry around the world should stand by and watch those who promote death on demand.

Many ethical doctors and nurses are working to improve pain and palliative care in Oregon, around the nation and throughout the world, without ever promoting or assisting in patient suicides.

Richard Gelwick, who was quoted in the Sentinel, not only misled the public with inaccurate claims about pain care, he also went so far as to say that assisted suicide somehow isn't suicide. The words and euphemisms used by those followers of the euthanasia movement, words such as such as 'hastened death,' 'aid in dying,' 'assisted dying,' and 'death with dignity,' are all attempts to disguise something horrible. Suicide is never dignified; especially in Oregon, where the overall suicide rate is 42 percent higher than the nation's average and where the suicide rate for those 75 or older is 63 percent higher than the rest of the nation's.

Oregon's assisted suicide claimed the lives of at least 15 individuals in the first year and undoubtedly at least as many in the second; approximately 30 more lives lost to suicide in two short years - and that does not include unreported cases. Despite Gelwick's claim that assisted suicide is somehow not suicide, it has become clear in Oregon that assisted suicide is suicide, and it's tragic.

Their suicide is not only condoned by the state, but suicides are actually paid for with our tax dollars.

These individuals swallow an overdose of 90 pills and kill themselves. According to Webster's and Stedman's Medical Dictionary, that's a suicide.

As a physician, I believe suicidal preoccupation in the seriously ill person is just like a suicidal wish in any other person. It is a sign of distress, a symptom that deserves evaluation and treatment. The seriously ill deserve good, compassionate care, not a drug overdose

We should beware of smooth words that promote assisted suicide and rename the deadly procedure: whether in Portland, Ore., Portland, Maine, or Belgium, suicide is suicide. And it's always a tragedy.

The writer is the co-founder of Physicians for Compassionate Care. He is professor of family practice at Oregon Health Sciences University.