Vermont Governor Would Likely Oppose Assisted Suicide Bill

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 7, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Vermont Governor Would Likely Veto Assisted Suicide Bill

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
October 7, 2003

Montpelier, VT ( — Proponents of a Vermont bill to legalize assisted suicide have an uphill battle before them, despite the Vermont Medical Society’s uncertain position on the proposed legislation.

Gov. James Douglas (R) has all but promised to veto the legalization of assisted suicide in his state, and pro-life groups such as the Diocese of Burlington and Vermont Right to Life have been outspoken in their condemnation of such legislation.

Gov. Douglas has expressed that he does not believe it’s "good public policy" to "accelerate" death.

"I just don’t believe it’s right," Gov. Douglas said last week. "I’m not going to support [this proposal] in Vermont."

While Oregon’s "Death with Dignity" act was passed by referendum, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber supported the legislation.

"Vermont’s proposed legislation is modeled after the Oregon "Death with Dignity Act"…a law which tries to redefine suicide," Bishop Kenneth A. Angell, bishop of Burlington, wrote in a statement sent to all 180 Vermont legislators and other officials in February of 2003. "They may make it [physician-assisted suicide] legal, but they will never make it moral."

"The Oregon Death with Dignity Act is based on a moral lie that even Webster’s dictionary exposes," Bishop Angell explains. "Suicide is simply defined as "the intentional taking of one’s own life."

The Bishop also mentioned that he felt the majority of Vermonters shared the view that physician-assisted suicide is a moral wrong.

The Diocese of Burlington is continuing its efforts in the coming days and weeks, including activating its Respect Life Phone Tree with over 1400 members, and a follow-up statement regarding the legislation.

The Vermont Medical Society will convene on October 17-18, and they are likely to discuss the upcoming legislation. The group is unsure whether it will support, oppose, or remain neutral on the Death with Dignity Act.

The group’s former president, Dr. Lloyd Thompson, was recently reprimanded for ending the life of an 85-year-old patient without consent.