May 20, 2014 marks one year since passage of Vermont’s doctor-prescribed suicide bill. However, despite its advocates’ claim that the law was needed, there has not been one report of a death using that law. This has led Denver-based Compassion & Choices (formerly known as the Hemlock Society) to step up efforts to persuade patients to make the “choice” of doctor-prescribed suicide. The organization has hired a state director to promote the law’s use.
Press release from Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare
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As with all doctor-prescribed suicide proposals, the VT law was initiated by the out of state Compassion & Choices (formerly called the Hemlock Society).
“Letter to Doctors, Actually Saying What We Knew all the Time: Assisted Suicide in Vermont Was and Is the Project of Forces from Outside the State”
(True dignity Vermont — September 28, 2013)
[Note: Letter from assisted-suicide advocacy group is linked in first paragraph]
On Monday, May 20, 2013, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed Vermont’s doctor-prescribed suicide bill, the “Patient Choice at End of Life” bill. The law took effect immediately.
According to the Vermont Health Commissioner, it is expected that health insurance will cover the process.
Text of law
Report forms for doctor-prescribed suicide in Vermont
As of mid-June, Vermont hospitals were beginning to sort out what options health facilities have when it comes to implementing the law.
The law states: “A health care facility may prohibit a physician from writing a prescription for a dose of medication intended to be lethal for a patient who is a resident of its facility and intends to use the medication on the facility’s premises, provided that the facility has notified the physician in writing of its policy with regard to the prescriptions.” [emphasis added]
This “facilities’ exemption” is very narrow and leaves open many questions. For example:
- Will a hospital pharmacy be required to fill a prescription for the lethal overdose?
- Must a hospital or care facility permit a doctor to write a prescription for a patient or resident if the drugs are going to be taken after the patient is discharged?
- Must a health care or assisted living facility permit a patient or resident to bring the lethal prescription from home to self-administer on the premises at a later date?
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Vermont, with a population of 623,050 people has a suicide rate that is above the national average. Although every year more people die nationally from suicide than from homicide, the difference between the number of suicides and homicides in Vermont is far greater than throughout the nation. In Vermont, suicide deaths outnumber homicide death by more than 6-1. [CDC, National Vital Statistics Reports, Apr. 24, 2008]
According to the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services, “about 1 in 20 elders are victims of violence and abuse” and “elders and people with disabilities are, as a group, at high risk for violence, abuse and exploitation.”
Although Governor “Shumlin hails Vermont’s No. 1 health ranking”, that ranking is primarily due to good prenatal care and active lifestyles. However Vermont ranks 28th best in its cancer death rate, meaning a slight majority of other states do better on that measure.
Current law regarding assisted suicide
On May 20, 2013, a doctor-prescribed suicide bill was signed into law. The Oregon-style provisions contained in the law will be in effect for three years after which they will sunset, leaving a stripped down version that removes the illusory safeguards. The remaining law will protect participating physicians and family members from criminal liability.
Previously, assisted suicide was a common law crime in Vermont.
Steps leading up to passage of current law
Prior to final passage there were a number of versions of the VT bill.
Text of original S. 77, an Oregon-style bill, prior to February 14 amended version.
An entirely different version of S. 77 than the version originally proposed passed the VT Senate on February 14.
Text of bill S.77 as amended and passed by the VT Senate on February 14, 2013.
The one page bill replaced the original 22 page measure that was a mirror image of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. The bill, as passed in the Senate, was sent to the VT House where doctor-prescribed suicide advocates amended it to reflect the original Oregon-style law. On May 1, 2013, the House amended the bill to reflect the original Oregon-style bill.
Text of bill S. 77 as amended by the VT House. The bill then went back to the Senate where it was again amended before going back to the House for final passage.
Previous attempt to permit doctor-prescribed suicide fails
On February 16, 2011, H. 274, titled “An Act Relating to Patient Choice and Control at the End of Life,” was introduced in the House. (Analysis of H. 274) On March 28, 2011, an identical bill, S.103, was introduced in the Senate.
On May 9, 2011, Vermont’s 2011 legislative session ended. Although assisted-suicide activists had predicted that an Oregon-style law would pass easily and Governor Peter Shumlin had raised expectations of proponents by campaigning on a promise of legalization, doctor-prescribed suicide did not become law in Vermont in 2011. But, because Vermont has a 2-year session, the bill remained under consideration in 2012.
After the measure failed to make it out of committee by the 2012 legislative deadline, proponents amended it to another unrelated measure (dealing with tanning beds for minors).
On April 12, 2012 the measure was resoundingly defeated by a Senate vote of 11-18.
After many months of debate, a doctor-prescribed suicide bill (S. 77) passed.
Prior to passage of the VT doctor-prescribed suicide bill on May 13, 2013, there had been many attempts to transform assisted suicide into a medical treatment in the state.
H. 274, S.103 (2011- 2012); (Analysis of H. 274)
S. 144, H. 455 (2009); Analysis of S. 144 (View as PDF)
H. 44, S. 63 (2007)
H. 168 (2005-2006)
H. 318 (2003-2004)
H. 493 (1999)
H. 109 (1997)
H. 335 (1995)
“A year later, no one has used law to hasten death”
(Burlington Free Press — May 19, 2014)
A year after Vermont enacted a law allowing terminally ill patients to hasten their own deaths, no one has done so. That has critics questioning whether Vermont needed the law at all, or whether the driving force was really outside groups looking to spread their cause.
“Vt. Senate chief supports repeal of aid in dying”
(sfgate — San Francisco Chronicle– February 27, 2014)
The president pro tem of the Vermont Senate says he would support a repeal of the state’s aid-in-dying law, but its chief sponsor says she hasn’t heard anything about the way it’s operating to give her concern.
“Opponents Call for Repeal of Assisted Suicide”
(Vt Digger — February 27, 2014)
Edward Mahoney, president of the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Health Care, said at a news conference Thursday that the law is poorly crafted and its supporters have not fully considered the ramifications of the law.
“Group launches effort to repeal physician-assisted death law”
(VT Digger — August 21, 2013)
The debate on Vermont’s Death with Dignity law is not over yet. The Vermont Alliance for Ethical Health Care has started an advertising campaign to spread awareness on Vermont’s End of Life Choices law ahead of a lobbying effort calling for its repeal.
You Tube video of ad.
“Top officer at Vt.’s largest hospital says policy to implement aid-in-dying law is months away”
(Daily Journal — August 11, 2013)
Fletcher Allen’s current interim policy is that no physician is allowed to write a prescription for the end-of-life drugs with the expectation that a patient would use them within the walls of the hospital.
(Originally published in Burlington Free Press — July 5, 2013)
Vermont legislators should be mortified that they have enacted a law to allow and promote “aid-in-dying” with virtually no protections for vulnerable patients. Among other things, the new law allows someone other than the patient to interpret a patient’s request for the lethal prescription. And the law requires that physicians inform all terminally ill patients about all available treatment options (including a drug to hasten death) even if the patient does not ask about it.
“Will NMC Participate in ‘Physician Aid in Dying’?”
(Northwestern Medical Center — June 2013)
While we understand the position of those who believe this will bring comfort in specific circumstances, we did not find our community hospital to be the proper setting for administration of a lethal dose of medication.
“Clarifying reporting on the Patient Choice at End of Life law”
(Bennington Banner — June 29, 2013)
Southwestern Vermont Health Care has chosen to enact this Health Care Facility Exception based on input from the Medical Executive Committee, the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Putnam Board of Governors, and the SVHC Board of Directors. The exception applies to all SVHC institutional entities.
“SVMC joins others in aid-in-dying exemption”
(Bennington Banner — June 26, 2013)
The bill was passed with a provision that allows medical factilities to opt out of it. Robinson said the Southwestern Vermont Health Care Board of Trustees and the health system’s Medical Executive Committee voted in May to invoke the exemption rule.
“Grace Cottage opts out of assisted-suicide law — for now”
(Brattleboro Reformer — June 22, 2013)
Vermont’s smallest hospital has become the latest medical facility to opt out of the state’s new aid-in-dying law. — at least temporarily.
“Leffler: What Vermont’s new end of life choice law means for Fletcher Allen”
(Vermont Digger — June 16, 2013)
This new law raises complex emotional and ethical issues for patients and providers. While the intent of the law is clear, the rules and regulations for how it will be carried out still must be determined.
“Brattleboro Memorial Hospital passes on aid-in-dying law”
(Brattleboro Reformer — June 13, 2013)
The Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Board of Directors has voted to enact the facility exemption rule that was included in the aid-in-dying law the Legislature passed this year. The board’s vote means that doctors who work at the hospital will not be permitted to prescribe medication to hasten death for terminally ill patients who want to take that medicine on hospital grounds.
“State takes first-ever path to approve assisted suicide”
(American Medical News — May 29, 2013)
In July 2016, the section of the law that sets out detailed rules on doctor-assisted suicide will expire. It will be replaced by a provision outlining what constitutes professional conduct under the state’s physician discipline regulations.
“‘Death with Dignity’ Claims Another Victim”
(Wall Street Journal — May 24, 2013)
Nearly 30 years ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Terminator” character made famous the phrase, “I’ll be back,” the implacable cyborg assassin’s response to a setback. Today, similarly relentless terminators are among us, also with a deadly mission: to move America toward acceptance of physician-assisted suicide.
“5 things to know about Vermont’s new law legalizing assisted suicide”
(The Republic — May 20, 2013)
Vermont Health Commissioner Dr.Harry Chen said it’s expected health insurance will cover the process.
“‘Death with Dignity’ signed into law in Vermont”
(Vt Digger — May 20, 2013)
Attorney General Bill Sorrell predicted that court action could compel other states to follow in Vermont’s footsteps….The quick turnaround was necessary for procedural reasons….The only way to expedite the process was to have the governor to request the bill, but when he makes that sort of request, he has to sign the bill within five legislative days.
“Jackowski: Assisted suicide is not the answer”
(Vt Digger — May 20, 2013)
The “assisted suicide bill” does exactly what it is designed not to do….For those pressured to die, there will be no choice. Behind closed doors in private, who will be there to protect them? Elder abuse is a major hidden problem. Talk to anyone in a nursing home — give them anonymity, that they will tell all.
“Hospitals to delay on aid-in-dying”
(Rutland Herald — May 18, 2013)
Many bills contain an effective date that comes well after they’re signed into law by the governor. But Ayer said because the bill passed right at adjournment, legislative procedure required that it either be signed by Shumlin within five days or wait until January, when lawmakers return for the second half of their biennium for enactment.
“Not what Vermont needs”
(Times Argus — May 17, 2013)
The final week of the political path to death with dignity in Vermont was a reminder of how a cadre of politicians can want something so desperately that they push it through even abandoning key promises….Our radical new social policy that endorses having doctors write prescriptions that will kill their patients, cobbled together by just a few individuals from bits and pieces of language drafted on the fly, was passed by two votes in the Senate and 10 votes in the House.
“End-of-life bill heads to governor for signature”
(Burlington Free Press — May 13, 2013)
Opponents were armed by the fact that the Senate had rewritten the bill just a week earlier. They argued that Senate version was crafted hastily with definitions left open to interpretation or misinterpretation…Nothing in the definition of a patient being capable of making a decision precludes an ill-meaning spouse from translating the patient’s wishes to a doctor.
Vermont passes doctor-prescribed suicide law
On May 13, 2013, in a nighttime session, assisted-suicide supporters mustered enough votes to defeat several amendments that would have stalled the bill for a year.
“Emotional end-of-life bill faces uncertain end as Senate and House try to iron out differences” (Vt Digger — May 3, 2013)
The Vermont House passed a much-debated end-of-life bill Wednesday, but the legislation is far from reaching the end of the road.
Now, the bill has become a looking glass into the procedural nuances that arise when the two legislative bodies — House and Senate — settle upon two very different versions of the same bill. And how it ends up is very much up in the air.
“House Passes End of Life Bill; Senate Deal Eyed”
(Vermont Public Radio — May 1, 2013)
Usually when the two chambers disagree, a conference committee is appointed to iron out the differences. But in this case, the goal of the bill’s supporters is to keep it out of a conference committee between the House and Senate. That’s because two of the three people who appoint the Senate conferees are opposed to the bill, and it could die there as the legislative clock runs out.
“Attempts to scuttle death with dignity bill fail; Vt. House passes legislation on second reading”
(Vermont Digger — May 1, 2013)
A little before midnight, the House voted 80-57 to approve S. 77. It is up for final vote Wednesday….The legislation which will be on third reading in the House Wednesday, faces a potential fight in conference committee with the Senate panel
Poll finds that 67% of Vermonters DO NOT support Oregon-style doctor-assisted suicide legislation. (4/13)
Vermonters were asked whether they support leaving Vermont law as it is; having an Oregon-style doctor-prescribed suicide law; or adopting a compromise bill approved by the Senate. Poll questions and results.
“End-of-life bill wins initial support in Vermont House”
(Burlington Free Press — April 30, 2013
The House version of the bill is based on a 15-year-old Oregon law….Further debate and another vote on the bill is slated for Wednesday….How and if the House version of the bill will be squared with a vastly different Senate version is unclear. Both chambers have to pass the same version for it to go on to the governor and become law.
Patient Choices Vermont (which supports doctor-prescribed suicide) was the third-highest spender of all lobbying firms reporting by last week’s deadline. In addition, the group has received more than $90,000 from the Death with Dignity National Center in Oregon in the last three years.
“What Vermonters think about assisted suicide”
(Burlington Free Press — April 29, 2013)
In point of fact, the discourse from proponents has been replete with euphemisms, platitudes and even denial about the reality of the suicide that their proposal entails. Although euphemisms can be used out of respect for the sensitivities of others, they can also detract attention from what is really going on in proposed legislation.
Testimony of John B. Kelly of Second Thoughts before the Vermont House Human Services Committee. (April 11, 2013)
“VT Senate passes end-of-life bill”
(North County Public Radio — February 15, 2013)
After three days of intense debate, the Vermont Senate passed an end-of-life bill that will now make its way to the House. Senator Ann Cummings, from Montpelier, proposed an amendment that stripped away a lot of those specifics. The bill will now head to the House, where Senators Cummings and Rodgers predict it will be substantially changed.
An entirely different version of S. 77 than the version originally proposed passed the VT Senate on February 14.
The one page bill replaced a 22 page measure that was a mirror image of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. The bill, as passed in the Senate, is now in the VT House where doctor-prescribed suicide advocates will attempt to amend it to reflect the Oregon law.
Text of bill S.77 as amended and passed by the VT Senate on February 14, 2013.
Text of original S. 77, an Oregon-style bill, prior to February 14 amended version.
Lt. Gov. Breaks Tie As Senate Changes End of Life Bill
(Vermont Public Radio — 2/13/13)
After a full day of debate, the Vermont Senate completely overhauled legislation that allows terminally ill people to end their lives. It was a change that many supporters of the original bill argued would weaken it, so they voted against it.
Senate leaders hope the body will take final action on this bill by the end of the week.
Amended bill — February 13, 2013
The Vermont Senate has voted 17 – 13 to reject the Judiciary Committee’s recommendation to strike down the doctor-prescribed suicide bill.
The bill will move forward for a final debate on Thursday. (2/12/13)
“End-of-life bill heads to full Senate vote amid questions”
(Burlington Free Press — 2/8/13)
The Vermont Senate is headed for a vote next week on a physician-assisted death bill, even as one supporter of the bill raised questions about some details and senators needed a tutorial in Senate rules to navigate the unusual process the bill is following….
If the bill fails to win a majority support in that first vote, it’s done for the biennium. If the bill prevails, it would face another Senate vote before going to the House.
“Senate Judiciary sends death with dignity to Senate floor without its blessing”
In an unusual move, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3-1 pm Friday to send the controversial “death with dignity” bill to the Senate floor early next week, despite the panel’s disapproval of the legislation. The bill will be heard on the Senate floor on Tuesday morning. (2/8/13)”
Death-Rithmetic: The Vote Count on Physician-Assisted Suicide” (2/7/13)
Latest vote count for VT assisted suicide proposal and names of undecided senators.
“‘Death with dignity’ bill faces key votes, unclear future”
(Vermont Digger — February 6, 2013)
The most prominent change is a shift in palliative care requirements. Under previous legislation, a participating physician would have needed to refer the terminally ill patient for a palliative care consultation. Now, the physician would only need to inform the patient of the options….
“Voice of the Free Press: The act is called suicide”
(Burlington Free Press — January 30, 2013)
The debate taking place in Montpelier shows just how far Vermont has to go before we can speak honestly about physician-assisted suicide….If we, as individuals and as a society are too squeamish to call the act for what it is, be are hardly ready to go forward with legislation that would allow a physician to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a patient.
“Hearings Begin On Assisted Death Bill”
(Vermont Public Radio — January 29, 2013)
The Vermont Senate Health and Welfare Committee has started its week-long review of one of the most controversial and emotional issues of the session.
Its likely that the Senate Health and Welfare committee will vote in favor of the bill on Friday. The legislation will then go to the Judiciary committee where it faces an uncertain future but Senate leaders have vowed to bring the issue to the floor even if the Judiciary committee takes a negative vote on the bill.
“Vermont lawmakers face debates on taxes, death and pot”
(Brattleboro Reformer — January 2, 2013)
The other recurring issue Shumlin said he hopes will pass this year is a law that would allow doctors under certain conditions to help terminally ill patients end their lives.
“Shumlin hails Vermont’s No. 1 health ranking”
(Bloomberg Businessweek — December 12, 2012)
Good prenatal care and active lifestyles are among the factors allowing Vermont to rank as the No. 1 healthiest state….[But] Vermont ranks 28th best in its cancer death rate, meaning a slight majority of other states do better on that measure.
“Shumlin confident death with dignity, childcare worker unionization, marijuana decriminalization, bills will pass this year. ”
(Vermont Digger — November 28, 2012)
Shumlin said he supports the death with dignity bill because he doesn’t understand why the state should interfere in a private decision made by an individual who has a terminal illness and wants to avoid suffering through the last 10 to 14 days of life.
“Comment & Debate: Untold harm”
(Burlington Free Press — June 26, 2012)
During the recently adjourned legislative session, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare played a very active role in the defeat of S. 103….We are committed to the enhancement of the already fine hospice and palliative care throughout the state; believing that excellent care at the end of life is far superior to the illusion that physician-assisted suicide results in real “death with dignity.”
“Vt. Senate rejects ‘Death with Dignity’ bill”
(WPTZ News — April 13, 2012)
Vote follows passionate debate over merits, protocol. The 11-18 vote came at the conclusion of an often contentious, two-hour debate on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon.
“Death with dignity bill falls on Senate floor”
(Vermont Digger — April 12, 2012)
The long-proposed “death with dignity” bill will have to wait another year to see if Vermont legislators support or oppose it.
“Death With Dignity Bill Takes Surprising Turn In Senate”
(Vermont Public Radio — April 10, 2012)
The question is whether or not the amendment will be considered germane to the tanning bill. Miller says since tanning beds are responsible for the development of certain types of cancer,the connection is definitely there. If backers are not successful in this initial effort, they say they’ll look for other bills to attach their amendments to.
“‘Death with dignity’ resurrected, attached to tanning beds bill”
(Rutland Herald — April 10, 2012)
Senator Linda Miller, a Chittenden County Democrat who sponsored the amendment, argued it is germane because both bills are related to cancer. The tanning bed bill is designed to prevent it, and physician-assisted suicide would be used by people dying from it, Miller said.
“Right to die legislation resurrected in Vt”
(WCAX News — April 10, 2012)
Right to die legislation has been resurrected in Montpelier — but maybe not for long.
“Death with dignity tacked onto tanning bill”
(Vermont Digger — April 10, 2012)
On Tuesday the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare tacked it on as a last-minute amendment to a bill prohibiting minors from using tanning beds. If Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and Senate Secretary John Bloomer deem the amendment not germane, a vote by three-quarters of the senators could override that decision and allow a vote.
“”Vt. lawmakers: Right-to-die bill won’t pass”
(Real Clear Politics — March 16, 2012)
Supporters of the bill, including Democratic Gov. Peter Schumlin, had pushed the committee to take the unusual step of sending the bill for the full Senate with a recommendation that it be defeated, in hopes they could get a majority of the 30 member body to buck the committee and support its passage.
“Will Death with Dignity see debate this session?”
(WCAX — January 25, 2012)
Advocates hoping to pass a bill giving Vermonters the right to end their own lives may have to wait until 2013. State senators tell WCAX New that support for this controversial bill is dwindling.
“Senate Democrats Wrangle Over Death Wish Dignity Bill”
(VPR News — January 23, 2012)
A bill that would allow terminally ill patients to get medication to end their own lives faces an uncertain prospect in the Vermont Senate. As VPRs John Dillon reports, two key Democrats are opposed to the measure, and they say lawmakers have more important priorities.
“Family Says Mallary Followed Convictions On Death With Dignity”
(Vermont Public Radio — January 4, 2012)
The family of former House Speaker Richard Mallary says he followed his convictions on death with dignity when he took his own life last fall….Ed Paquin, executive director of Disability Rights Vermont, thinks the bill is a threat to disabled people who could find themselves under pressure to end their lives. “I don’t think it’s good public policy that doctors be allowed to prescribe lethal medication, which is then administered in an unsupervised say.”
“Digger Tidbits: Survey results mixed on ‘end-of-life’ bill”
(Vermont Digger — January 3, 2012)
Disability groups oppose “end-of-life” legislation that would enable patients with terminal illnesses to use prescription drugs to commit suicide….According to Sarah Lauderville, executive director of the Vermont Center for Independent Living, “With too many uncertainties and risk around physician-assisted suicide, VCIL stays committed to continue the fight against this becoming a public policy.”
“Letter: State can’t oversee doctor assisted suicide”
(Burlington Free Press — December 22, 2011)
A state government that is unable to investigate a known backlog of 300 reports of abuse and neglect of the elderly, the disabled, the sick — and to prevent such abuse in the first place — is demonstrably untrustworthy to safely implement doctor-prescribed death!
“Physician-Assisted Suicide or Death with Dignity”
(Montpelier Bridge — December 15, 2011 — See Article on page 12)
Based on survey results, 71 percent of those who responded said “the issue of assisted suicide should not be a legislative priority for 2012.”
From the survey, it appears that those who oppose assisted suicide oppose it with greater vehemence than those who support the idea. And the Vermont Center for Independent Living, an organization with daily experience in working with people who have disabilities and are often vulnerable, opposes assisted suicide.
“Control At End Of Life: A Complicated Matter”
(Vermont Standard — November 22, 2011)
Nancy Niedzielski has told her compelling story many times…As gut-wrenching as Niedzielski’s chronicle is, it’s insufficient to win over opponents….The plight of Oregonian Barbara Wagner, for example, illustrates a component of the vulnerability inherent in condoning physician-assisted suicide, according to some of its opponents.
“Here we go again”
(Times Argus — November 1, 2011)
Out-of-state forces are once again pressuring our governor and key legislators to take up assisted suicide legislation in the 2012 session….It would be a mistake for the legislators to waste time, energy and taxpayer funds on such a divisive issue as doctor-prescribed death. Our resources are limited, but our focus must be on getting our state on the road to recovery.
“My Turn: Social justice, doctor assisted suicide don’t mix”
(Burlington Free Press — September 6, 2011)
“However, the message was clear: Part of the motivation behind doctor prescribed death is cost control…I dread to think about how aggressively insurers might ration people into choosing doctor prescribed death. I dread to think how a state could contemplate adding to the distress of its most vulnerable citizens — those with a terminal diagnosis, by offering them doctor prescribed death, especially in these economically distressed times.”
“Physician-assisted death in Vermont in 2012?”
(Burlington Free Press — August 16, 2011)
Last week at his news conference, Gov. Peter Shumlin indicated legislation to legalize physician-assisted death would not be ready for takeoff next year. “As you know, the votes are not there in the Senate,” he said.
“Queue is back for abused, vulnerable adults in Vermont”
(Vermont Digger — August 7, 2011)
Most incidents happen at home, cloaked in the kind of secrecy that mirrors domestic abuse. The perpetrators are often a member of an elderly person’s most intimate circle — a son or daughter, a parent, a grandchild,caregiver or neighbor….Incidents of illegal abuse, neglect or financial exploitation in the state are growing at an alarming rate.
VT official seeks to follow Oregon’s lead in doctor-prescribed suicide and health care rationing
“Political pragmatism is key to Vt.’s health care reform”
(Addison County Independent — July 18, 2011)
Steven Kimbell, commissioner of the VT Dept. of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration, recently spoke with the Addison County Independent about upcoming changes to the state’s health care system. Discussed, among the ways to contain costs of the new program, were:
“Passing a law that allows physicians to help end a patient’s life under very controlled circumstances, known as ‘death with dignity,’ is one such measure that could help….”
“Another is approving some type of rationing measures, as Oregon has done, that help control health care costs.”
“Assisted suicide bill fails transparency test”
(Burlington Free Press — April 17, 2011)
What could be more momentous for a society than to permit a doctor to prescribe a way to death? To suggest that the taking of one’s own life with the assistance of a doctor is anything short of suicide is nothing short of a lie. Is Vermont ready for an act when people are uncomfortable calling it what it is?
Leading Palliative Care Expert Discusses Assisted Suicide
April 5, 2011
Dr. Diane Meier who previously favored legalization of assisted suicide now opposes it. Speaking at a public forum in Vermont, she said, “What’s also interesting is that the movement to legalize assisted suicide is overwhelmingly driven by the ‘worried well’…Legalization of physician assisted suicide in a society like ours, which is entirely driven by overwhelmed, overextended doctors chasing the dollar, is pretty scary.”
“Has the Physician Assisted Suicide bill been euthanized?”
(True North Report — March 29, 2011)
Governor Peter Shumlin promised during his campaign that Vermont would pass a so-called “Death With Dignity” law in 2011. The bill was introduced in February and assigned to the House Human Services Committee. Rep. Topper McFaun, a member of the Human Services Committee, said that the committee hasn’t yet taken up the bill. “It’s still on the wall, he said. “We haven’t talked about it coming up.”
“Death with dignity forum emotional”
( Bennington Banner – - March 4, 2011 )
The Mark Skinner Library was the site of an emotionally charged but largely civil conversation on Vermont’s Death with Dignity bill, or H. 274, introduced in the House on Feb. 17. The event was organized by Patient Choices Vermont which supports the measure. More than 100 individuals attended, most wearing round yellow stickers reading, “I oppose physician-assisted suicide.”
“‘Death with dignity’ debate likely to be emotional”
( Seattle Post-Intelligencer – - February 20, 2011 )
National groups on both sides of the debate are watching Vermont closely to see whether it will follow Oregon and Washington which enacted physician-assisted suicide laws. Rita Marker, executive director of the Ohio-based Patients Rights Council which opposes the measure, said of national supporters, “They’re trying to gain a foothold in the Northeast.” The Oregon-based Death with Dignity National Center has pledged $100,000 to support the proposal.
“Physician-assisted death bill introduced but with slim prospects this year”
( Burlington Free Press – - February 18, 2011 )
Despite backing from the governor, the bill to provide an Oregon-style assisted suicide law in Vermont appears slim this year. The bill’s opponents include the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Health Care and the Vermont Center for Independent Living. Senate leader John Campbell, D-Windsor, said he didn’t think there could be sufficient assurances that a terminally ill patient opting to end his or her life was making a sound decision without influence.
“Physician-Assisted Suicide: A Recipe for Elder Abuse and the Illusion of Personal Choice”
by Margaret Dore, Esq. (Vermont Bar Journal – Winter 2011)
Legalization of assisted suicide is a recipe for elder abuse. It devalues people with disabilities. Its promise of individual choice is an illusion. Vermont has repeatedly rejected assisted suicide. Don’t make Oregon and Washington’s mistake.
“With a New Governor in Power, Will Vermonters Finally Win Their ‘Right to Die’?”
( Seven Days – - January 12, 2011 )
Supporters of an Oregon-style assisted suicide law have reason to believe they could win passage for a similar bill in VT. “Unlike in past years, when it failed to take hold in Vermont, ‘death with dignity’ now has an important ally: the governor. Newly sworn-in Gov. Peter Shumlin pledged support for right-to-die legislation during the 2010 campaign, and, as a state senator the year before, he cosponsored S. 144,’An Act Relating to Patient Choice and Control at the End of Life.’”
“Legislature’s now open for business”
( Bennington Banner – - January 6, 2011 )
Vermont’s legislative biennium beginning this week presents myriad opportunities for Democratic policy gains as Gov-elect Peter Shumlin takes office and both chambers maintain strong Democratic majorities. Supporters of a physician-assisted suicide bill believe such a law can pass under Shumlin’s leadership. He has said he supports such a law but not all Democratic lawmakers are on board with Shumlin’s wishes.
“Report: Not Enough Pain Management Training” (WCAX-TV, 1/29/09)
“Legislature Kills Assisted Suicide Legislation” (True North Radio, 5/8/07) Defeat of Vermont assisted-suicide bill was a victory of historic proportions.
Note: Assisted-suicide advocates in Vermont claim that there are no problems with Oregon’s assisted-suicide law (on which the Vermont proposal is based) and they claim that the Oregon law’s safeguards are protective, meticulously followed, and carefully monitored. However those claims are false. For document information about this, see “Ten Years of Assisted Suicide in Oregon.”