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Lamm: we all have a 'duty to die'

DENVER -- A pro-life organization wants Gov. Richard D. Lamm to resign because he said seriously ill elderly people should die. But Lamm rejects the idea, saying he was not being 'brutal.'

Lamm sparked the furor earlier this week when, criticizing the high costs of health care, he said terminally ill elderly citizens 'have a duty to die and get out of the way.'

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The remark sparked criticism from some senior citizens' groups, and Thursday the American Life Lobby called on Lamm to resign.

The anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia group -- based in Washington, D.C., and claiming 135,000 members -- also sent a telegram to presidential candidate Sen. Gary Hart, D-Colo., asking him to 'state your agreement or disavowal' of Lamm's 'outrageous statement.'

'Gov. Richard Lamm, who has endorsed your candidacy for president, has said the elderly ill have a 'duty to die and get out of the way,'' the telegram said. 'We call on you to state whether this statement by one of your top supporters is one of your new ideas.'

The group also sent a telegram to Lamm, saying his statement 'makes you unfit for any public office.' At a news conference later in the day, Lamm dismissed the call for his resignation.

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'I am categorically in contempt of their request,' he said. 'If politicians can't discuss sensitive issues, we're all lost.'

Lamm said the 'duty to die' statement was a quote from a philosopher, and accurately reflected his feelings. He said advances in medical technology can keep people alive indefinitely, driving soaring medical costs even higher.

'I don't think I said it brutally, but I think it was reported brutally,' he said. 'Medical science has now replaced God as the author of death. Every one of us ought to think through that issue.'

Lamm also appeared on NBC's 'Today' program Thursday morning, and repeated his question, 'How much high technology medicine can society afford?'

He said people must make a decision on what they want doctors to do should they become comatose.

'In my case, I want them to pull the plug,' he said. 'The era of natural death is really being replaced by high technology medication where they can really prolong suffering rather than sustain life.'

A group of elderly citizens gave Lamm a standing ovation the day after his initial statements when he addressed them during Senior Day at the state Capitol. Many of the elderly said they agreed with Lamm.

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However, Lamm's remark prompted Oklahoma Gov. George Nigh to open a news conference Thursday in Tulsa, Okla., by saying, 'I think everybody ought to be able to live as long as they want to.'

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