Vermont Takes Up Assisted Suicide Bill Again, Will Likely Fail

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 11, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Vermont Takes Up Assisted Suicide Bill Again, Will Likely Fail Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 11
, 2005

Montpelier, VT ( — After losing the first time they tried to pass an assisted suicide bill through the state legislature, euthanasia proponents are back with a new proposal. The next legal showdown is set to begin as groups of citizens are working with supportive lawmakers to pass a bill similar to Oregon’s law, the only one of its kind in the nation.

A bill stalled in the state legislature when Vermont’s governor Jim Douglas indicated he would veto the measure. A new bill was introduced in February and is slated for a hearing Tuesday.

The House Human Services Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday evening and its chairman, Rep. Ann Pugh, a South Burlington Democrat, says more testimony will be taken on Wednesday and Thursday.

She told the Vermont Press Bureau she doesn’t know whether the legislation will pass out of her committee.

"I don’t have any grand plan," Pugh said. "That is something the committee will have to decide. We are taking this up because the committee wanted to."

House Human Services committee member Rep. Thomas Koch, a Republican, predicted his committee will hear testimony on the bill and then table it.

"I don’t think it will see action," he explained. "The indication Ann gave is we will have a hearing and then it goes back on the wall, same as it did last year."

Whether the bill receives committee approval or not, its fate could be sealed in the state House.

In a meeting with reporters on Friday, House Speaker Gaye Symington, also a Democrat, says she has no plans to allow any debate on the assisted suicide bill on the House floor either this year or next.

A VPB story quotes her telling reporters the assisted suicide bill "is not something that will come to completion this biennium."

Senate leaders also indicated there was little chance the bill would make any progress there.

The legislation also faces opposition still from leading state groups such as the Vermont Medical Society, the Vermont State Nurses Association and the Coalition for Disability Rights. Paul Harrington, executive director of the doctors’ group, says physicians in Vermont oppose assisted suicide by a two to one margin.

A spokesman for Governor Douglas told VPB that he is also still opposed to the bill.

Jason Gibbs, the governor’s chief spokesman said Douglas "does not support physician-assisted suicide."

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