Vermont Assisted Suicide Bill Likely Won’t Go Far This Year

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 3, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Vermont Assisted Suicide Bill Likely Won’t Go Far This Year Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 3, 2006

Montpelier, VT ( — Lawmakers are planning another attempt in the upcoming legislative session to make the state the second to legalize assisted suicide, but even supporters of the legislation recognize it likely won’t get far.

House Speaker Gaye Symington, a Democrat, told the Times Argus newspaper she expected the House Human Services Committee to hold hearings on the bill and possibly approve it, but that may be as far as it gets.

"If the bill passes the Human Services Committee it still needs to go to the Judiciary Committee for review," Symington said. "The Judiciary Committee has an awful lot on its plate … I don’t know where that will rise on its priority list."

In addition to a full plate of other issues, members of the Judiciary Committee who support the assisted suicide proposal say they want to wait to vote on a bill until after the Supreme Court decides a case related to Oregon’s assisted suicide law.

The high court heard arguments in October about the case, which involves a ruling by the Bush administration that federally controlled drugs can’t be used in assisted suicides. All of the more than 200 assisted suicides in Oregon in the eight years since the law was approved have involved such drugs.

Vermont’s legislation is based heavily on the Oregon law.

"It is really the better course of wisdom to see how the Supreme Court rules … before we craft a bill," Rep. Richard Marek, a Democrat and a Judiciary Committee member, told the Times Argus.

Even if the House approves the measure, there is little chance of passage in the state Senate, Sen. James Leddy, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, said.

Leddy told the Times Argus he doesn’t support the bill and noted that no companion measure has been introduced in the Senate.

"If you have an issue with broad support in both chambers you tend to have a bill introduced in both chambers," he said. "That is not the case."

Republican Gov. James Douglas also opposes the bill and would veto it if it ever reached his desk.

Dick Walters, spokesman for Death with Dignity Vermont, a pro-euthanasia group, told the newspaper that his group will be back again in the next legislative session if a bill isn’t approved this time around.