With regard to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber's op-ed column of Nov. 2, "Congress's Medical Meddlers," let's get the facts straight.

Federally controlled substances are exactly that -- federally controlled. Under present law, they can be used only for a legitimate medical purpose to promote health and safety. This has been true since 1970, when Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, giving primary jurisdiction over these narcotics and dangerous drugs to the Drug Enforcement Administration. A lethal overdose, otherwise known as assisted suicide, has never been considered a legitimate medical purpose and certainly does not promote public health and safety.

Oregon voters passed a state law to allow physician-assisted suicide, and they had the right to do so. But they do not have the right to change federal law. If Oregon were to legalize the use of heroin for medicinal purposes, that wouldn't change the federal law forbidding its use.

Last year, Attorney General Janet Reno issued a letter carving out an exception for Oregon to use federally controlled substances for assisted suicide, a decision in conflict with an earlier determination by her own DEA and with the Controlled Substances Act. The Pain Relief Promotion Act makes clear, for the first time, that aggressive treatment of pain is a legitimate medical purpose, and it provides new legal protections for physicians to use these medications to alleviate pain and discomfort. It also restates that the use of these federally controlled drugs to cause, or assist in causing, death is not a legitimate medical purpose.

DON NICKLES

U.S. Senator (R-Okla.)

Washington