Assisted Suicide Bill Approved By Vermont Legislators

In a recent Reuter’s article written by Scott Malone entitled: Vermont set to become third U.S. state to allow assisted suicide, is reported that on Monday Vermont lawmakers approved a physician-assisted suicide bill to allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients who want to die.

The bill awaits to be signed into law by Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin who has indicated support for the measure. He believes this is the right thing to do, which would offer Vermonters who face terminal illness at the end of life a choice to control their destiny and avoid unnecessary suffering.

Doctor-assisted suicide has been already legalized in Oregon and Washington in voter referendums.

The procedure of a doctor-assisted suicide has some safeguards. Two doctors, the patient’s primary physician and the consulting doctor, must make the medical determination that their patient is suffering from a terminal illness and is capable of making an informed decision to request death-inducing drugs. Under the bill the patient has to request the drugs twice, with 15 days separating the first and second requests. Moreover, the patients must apply the drugs to themselves only.

According to Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act (DWDA), since Oregon legalized suicide in 1998, some 1,050 patients have requested drugs to hasten death, and of those, 673 have taken their lives.Screenshot from 2013-05-15 11:54:33

According to the Death with Dignity National Center, similar bills to legalize physician-assisted suicide have been introduced in Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire and New Jersey. Bills that would specifically ban the practice have been introduced in Connecticut and Montana.

Supporters of euthanasia insist it can save patients of painful terminal illnesses, such as bone cancer, years of suffering. Opponents warn that measures allowing it may encourage people to take their own lives at the order of potential heirs or because they fear they are imposing a burden on family.

Dick Walters, president of advocacy group Patient Choices at End of Life, said in a statement: “This is an historic day for the end of life choice movement.” He called the measure an important step for champions of terminally ill patient autonomy rights.

Opponents in their turn called the move a dangerous one. Margaret Dore of True Dignity Vermont is sure this is the opportunity for the patient’s heir, or for another person who will benefit financially from the patient’s death, to administer the lethal dose to the patient without his consent.

A similar assisted-suicide bill was put before Massachusetts voters in November. The measure was defeated, 51% to 49%.

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