Study Likely To Renew Assisted-Suicide Debate In Vermont
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 6, 2004
MONTPELIER, VERMONT--Vermont's Legislative Council released a study Friday outlining the arguments on both sides of Oregon's assisted-suicide law and Holland's euthanasia law.
While the study was meant to be unbiased, advocates for and against legalizing assisted-suicide appear to be welcoming the study.
Last January, Vermont lawmakers -- citing pressure from opponents of such a law -- announced that they would not consider a bill designed to legalize physician-assisted suicide during its 2004 session. 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 oppose the measure. The Vermont Medical Society, Vermont Right to Life Committee and Burlington's Catholic Diocese also opposed the bill.
In May, however, about 100 lawmakers asked the Council to put together the report to look at the "factual disputes" in the debate.
According to the Rutland Herald, supporters of assisted-suicide said the report supports their position.
"Now we can have a legitimate debate," said Dr. Diana Barnard, a family-care physician and supporter of physician-assisted suicide.
Opponents said the report and its subsequent debate would likely strengthen their resolve and weaken the other side.
"We are not afraid of the discussion," said Mary Hahn Beerworth, executive director of the Vermont Right to Life Committee. "Every time we have an opportunity to engage the subject there is less and less support."
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.
The report noted that, in Oregon, 11 percent of patients requesting physician assisted-suicide cited financial pressures, while six percent said they lacked social support. The most common reasons patients chose assisted suicide included loss of independence, poor quality of life, a readiness to die and to control circumstances of their death.
"Assisted-suicide study encourages supporters" (Rutland Herald)
"Oregon's Death with Dignity law and Euthanasia in the Netherlands: Factual Disputes" (Vermont Legislature)