Death with Dignity enlists PR help over Oregon case

WASHINGTON: The Death with Dignity National Center (DWD), an Oregon-based advocacy group, has tapped Witeck-Combs Communications to provide PR counsel and media relations support for an upcoming Supreme Court hearing addressing physician-assisted suicide.

WASHINGTON: The Death with Dignity National Center (DWD), an Oregon-based advocacy group, has tapped Witeck-Combs Communications to provide PR counsel and media relations support for an upcoming Supreme Court hearing addressing physician-assisted suicide.

The oral arguments in the case, Gonzales v. Oregon, are scheduled to be heard on October 5, three days into John Roberts' likely tenure as chief justice of the Supreme Court. Roberts is expected to win confirmation this month.

Witeck-Combs is organizing a media event at the National Press Club on October 4, where attorney and DWD board member Eli Stutsman will explain why the court should rule in Oregon's favor. Stutsman was a drafter of the state's 1994 Death with Dignity Act.

During the next two weeks, Witeck-Combs plans to work with family members of people who have used the Oregon law to take their own lives. In particular, the firm will help set up interviews and editorial meetings with Nora Miller, whose husband, Rick, used the law to commit suicide in 1999, said CEO Bob Witeck.

Board members and officials associated with the DWD spearheaded the adoption of the law in Oregon that allows physicians to assist in the death of terminally ill patients. In 2001, then-US Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a directive that the law violated the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Oregon officials challenged Ashcroft's directive and prevailed when an appeals court declared that Ashcroft overstepped his authority. Last February, the Supreme Court granted Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' request for a hearing in the case.

Witeck-Combs intends to provide communications support to the center through the end of this year and again when the Supreme Court comes back with a decision in the case, said Witeck.

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