Vermont Becomes 4th State to Legalize Assisted Suicide

 

After years of debate, Vermont became the fourth state in the country Monday to allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medicine to terminally ill patients seeking to end their lives.

Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the bill into law at a Statehouse ceremony even as opponents vowed to push for its repeal.

The End of Life Choices law was effective immediately, although it could be weeks before the state Health Department develops regulations in accordance with the new measure.

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen said he expects doctors to write between 10 and 20 lethal prescriptions a year, with a smaller number of patients actually using the drugs.

He based his figures on the experience in Oregon, the first state to legalize assisted suicide in 1997. Washington state and Montana followed later, with Montana's coming by way of a court order.

"It's used by a very small number, but it brings comfort to a much greater number knowing it's there," Chen said.

During emotionally charged discussion of the bill, proponents said Vermonters of sound mind who are suffering from terminal conditions should be able to choose when to end their lives. But opponents said the law could be abused and vulnerable people, especially the elderly, could be forced to end their lives.

Shumlin offered reassurances before signing the bill. "This bill does not compel anyone to do anything that they don't choose in sound mind to do," he said. "All it does is give those who are facing terminal illness, are facing excruciating pain, a choice in a very carefully regulated way." Some critics of the law attended the bill-signing and promised to seek its repeal. "We need to be more of a caring, compassionate society, not one that says `take a pill, go away,'" said Edward Alonzo of Burlington. "People don't have the best of intentions, always, with their family members.”
1 2 Next
Source: Yellowbrix

Print Article