Vermont Med. Society Won’t Take Position on Assisted Suicide Bill

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 4, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Vermont Med. Society Won’t Enter Debate on Assisted Suicide Bill

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
December 4, 2003

Montpelier, VT ( — The governing council of the Vermont Medical Society (VMS) voted 20-2 to stay out of the legislative debate on assisted suicide in Vermont – but clearly stated "the society in no way endorses euthanasia."

The vote comes after a confusing ballot taken last month, in which conflicting results from members made the VMS position on the issue unclear. The issue was raised by legislation modeled after Oregon’s assisted suicide law that could come before the state legislature next year.

"We are grateful that The Vermont Medical Society has taken a clear and unequivocal position on the matter of physician assisted suicide," Mary Beerworth, Executive Director of Vermont Right to Life told "The 20 to 2 vote by the governing board of the VMS to continue opposition to physician assisted suicide ought to seriously discourage any attempt to pass physician assisted suicide in this legislative session and hopefully the Hemlock Society (otherwise known as End of Life Choices) will take their operations out of Vermont."

Dr. Robert Orr, founder of the pro-life Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, said he is "pleased" with the recent vote. He believes the results of the ballots appeared confusing due to ambiguous language used.

The first resolution sent out in November, to alter the VMS’s existing policy to state that no laws should govern assisted suicide, passed by a mail-in vote of 522 to 175. The second resolution, for the society to take a neutral stance on the issue itself, passed by a vote of 348 to 340.

Oregon became the first state to legalize assisted suicide in 1994.

VMS’s former president, Dr. Lloyd Thompson, was recently reprimanded for ending the life of an 85-year-old patient without her consent or that of her family.

Pro-life groups were disappointed that he did not receive a more severe punishment.

Governor Jim Douglas has made it clear he does not support the legislation, and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee stated he does not want to take up such a controversial issue if it’s not likely to become law.

Howard Dean, the former Governor and a presidential candidate, recently indicated he supports assisted suicide.