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Local editorials

The state has put off fixing campus buildings for too long; just do it

We're not wild about the state government borrowing money to pay for needed services. But when it comes to crumbling buildings on Oregon's university campuses, we think it would be more foolish to put off repairs any longer.

The buildings are crumbling precisely because maintenance and remodeling was put off in past years when budgets got tight. At the time, university officials decided it was more important to maintain course and degree offerings than bricks and mortar.

That wasn't a bad decision, just a difficult one. But now the bricks are literally falling off the walls, and maintenance can be put off no longer if the state wants to protect its investment in these properties.

Unfortunately, budgets are even tighter now than they were when the maintenance was deferred. That leaves borrowing.

The plan being pushed by university leaders calls for the sale of &

36;500 million in bonds, starting in the 2005-07 biennium, by which time the economy should have improved. The money would be divided among the universities.

Southern Oregon University would get &

36;25 million spread over 10 years; Oregon State University would get the largest share, &

36;158 million.

By all accounts that's justified. OSU has a building encased in chain-link fencing to keep bricks from falling off the walls, and entrances are covered by plywood shields to protect students and staff from plunging debris.

The bond plan would require a constitutional amendment to authorize the bond sale, which would require voter approval.

The Legislature should refer the matter to the people, and the voters should approve it.

Still working

Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law has not become the onerous vehicle of death its detractors said it would when it was being drafted in the early 1990s.

In 2002, 38 people killed themselves with help from their doctors. While that's the highest number in the five full years the law has been in effect, it's still much less than had been predicted.

In 2002, assisted suicides made up 0.1 percent of deaths, much less than the 2 percent to 5 percent experts had projected.

People say they want the option, but very few people are really interested in availing themselves of this option, one expert in medical ethics told the Associated Press in a story published Thursday.

Oregon is the only state in which terminally ill patients can legally obtain lethal prescriptions from their doctors to commit suicide.

Doctors wrote 58 prescriptions in 2002 for terminally ill patients who qualified under the voter-approved law, according to a report in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine. Of those, committed suicide.

The report said most of those who ended their lives were older, well-educated cancer victims. The primary reasons for the suicides included loss of independence, a decrease in the ability to participate in activities that make life enjoyable, and loss of control of bodily functions.

We supported the law when it was first proposed, when a second ballot measure sought to overturn it, and when attorney General John Ashcroft sought to punish doctors who prescribed lethal doses of medication. We still support the law, as do a majority of Oregonians. The latest report is just more evidence that it is working as intended.