Vermont Lawmakers Drop "Assisted Suicide" Bill
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January, 7, 2004
MONTPELIER, VERMONT--Vermont lawmakers announced Tuesday that they would not consider a bill designed to legalize physician-assisted suicide during the current session.
The bill, known as the "Death with Dignity Act", had 40 supporters in the House, but members of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee said they would not support it.
"I don't want to spend a lot of time on a bill that if it starts to move is going to draw rallies to the State House steps and cause an uproar, and then if it goes to the Senate is going to stand still," explained Rep. Thomas Koch, head of the House Health and Welfare Committee.
Vermont Governor James Douglas had also suggested that he would veto such a bill.
The decision to drop the proposal came after the Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights, which represents 26 disability rights groups from across the state, announced that it would appose the measure. The Vermont Medical Society, Vermont Right to Life Committee and Burlington's Catholic Diocese also opposed the bill.
"Many fear that creating an environment where a potential for encouraging someone to end their life -- a life some perceive as having less value -- would be creating a slippery slope," read a statement from the coalition, which suggested the debate should shift to improving people's lives rather than ending them.
The bill would have allowed terminally ill patients, with six months or less left to live, to ask doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication, which the patients would take themselves.
Supporters note that the proposal, similar to a law in Oregon, would have required a second doctor to confirm the diagnosis and order counseling if the patient appeared to be experiencing depression.
Disability rights groups have opposed attempts to legalize physician-assisted suicide because of the risk to people with certain disabilities whose lives are often considered "not worth living" in a culture that values productivity, mobility, and independence. People with disabilities are also often made to believe that they are a burden upon others, and that dying would be the loving thing to do.
Analyses of the several dozen people that physician-assisted suicide campaigner Dr. Jack Kevorkian "helped" to end their lives revealed that only a small percentage were actually in the final stages of terminal illnesses. Most had disabilities, feared having a disability, or said they did not want to "be a burden" on their family members.
"Jack Kevorkian: Dr. Death" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)