Vermont Senate Approves Bill Legalizing Assisted Suicide

State   Steven Ertelt   May 10, 2013   |   4:56PM    Montpelier, VT

The Vermont state Senate approved a measure to make the state the third to legalize assisted suicide, following Oregon and Washington.

Thursday’s Senate vote was 17-13 in favor of the bill, which “would require a patient to get two physicians to diagnose terminal illness — defined as six months or less to live. The patient would need to be mentally competent, over the age of 18 and able to swallow their own medication. No one else can administer it.”

“The request for lethal medication must be both verbal and written, and there needs to be two witnesses, one of whom can not be a family member,” according to the measure

Passage of the measure came despite opposition from pro-life, Catholic, medical, and disabled rights groups. They are still fighting the bill on final votes in the legislature with the hope of stopping it.

“I don’t think it’s a benefit for Vermonters,” said Sharon Iszak of the Vermont Right to Life Committee. “I don’t feel as though the government has any business getting in between a patient and a doctor.”

Dr. Edward Mahoney, President of the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, bemoaned passage of the measure.

“Democrats and Republicans, medical professionals and disability rights advocates have consistently come together to oppose this ill-conceived and misguided public policy,” he said. “This latest bill version is an unrestricted physician assisted suicide hodgepodge and represents the worst of both worlds; a huge and negative shift in public policy and the way Vermont approaches people with serious illness or disability. It is Oregon-style assisted suicide 2.0.”

Mahoney continued: “If passed, this amalgam will result in the collection of incomplete, inaccurate and insufficient data; does not safeguard patients from abuse; and makes it impossible to determine whether physician-assisted suicide is being practiced outside the framework of the law.  The diverse coalition opposing assisted suicide will continue to work against this unwise policy regardless of the legislative outcome.”

He said similar efforts to legalize Oregon-style physician-assisted suicide have failed recently in the New England region, such as the rejection of Ballot Question 2 in Massachusetts in November 2012.

A Connecticut bill lacked the support to even move it out of committee in 2013, and earlier this week Maine’s Health and Human Services Committee rejected a similar bill on a vote of 10-2.

Gov. Peter Shumlin is expected to sign the legislation to put Vermont on the map as another assisted suicide state and the first to legalize it via legislation.

Anne Fox of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, which successfully stopped assisted suicide in her state, followed the vote.

“The final vote in the Senate came because an outspoken opponent of DPS flipped.  So the Senate originally passed a bill that didn’t change the ways things are now.  Then the House passed Oregon-style language,” she said. “Our hope was that the Senate would hold out so the two bills would have to go to Conference Committee to be reconciled – which held great hope.  Vote on Tuesday was ok.  On Wednesday, language was added and passed which makes the Vermont language worse than Oregon.  It is expected that the House will accept this language, which means there will be no conference committee.”

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Fox worries passage will embolden euthanasia activists to come back to her state.

She told LifeNews, “As soon as it is over for sure, the death lobby group, Compassion and Choices, formerly the Hemlock Society (which has an amazing PR machine), will be all over the national news claiming that the dam has broken and everyone in the country will soon have the “right” to control his death (most suicides are committed by men).”

ACTION: Tell Vermont Gov Peter Shumlin to NOT sign the assisted suicide bill. http://governor.vermont.gov/contact-us