Vermont House Defeats Bill to Legalize Assisted Suicide on Bipartisan Vote

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 22, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Vermont House Defeats Bill to Legalize Assisted Suicide on Bipartisan Vote

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 22
, 2007

Montpelier, VT ( — The Vermont state House defeated a measure on Wednesday that would have made the state the second to legalize assisted suicide. The vote comes after a legislative panel signed off on the bill earlier this month to have the New England state follow Oregon in allowing doctors to prescribe drugs to kill patients.

The bill in question would allow terminally ill patients whose physicians say they have less than six months to live to request a lethal dose of barbiturates that they could use to kill themselves.

Two physicians would have to sign off on their request for the lethal drugs and patients would have to undergo counseling beforehand.

After several hours of emotional debate, the House defeated the assisted suicide bill on a 82-63 vote.

Supporters and opponents of the bill turned out in force and sat in the House gallery watching the debate. They were easily identifiable with backers of the bill sporting green stickers and opponents wearing yellow ones.

Rep. Thomas Koch, a Republican, said he ultimately voted against the bill because of the overwhelming number of calls he received from constituents opposing it.

"Separating my own views … from what I view as my duty as a representative and my duty to represent the people who sent me here and who I have heard from in overwhelming numbers," he said, according to the Times Argus.

"There may come a time when society is ready to accept this social policy. I don’t think that time is now for the state of Vermont," he added.

Had the bill been approved by the House and supported by the Senate, opponents were confident that Gov. Jim Douglas would have vetoed it as he had made such commitments before.

Pro-life groups joined disability rights organizations and the Vermont Medical Society in opposing the bill. The medical group doesn’t oppose assisted suicide either but says no law should be passed on the topic.

Related web sites:
Vermont legislature –
Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare –
Vermont Right to Life –