Vermont will become the fourth state to make it legal for a physician to prescribe lethal medication to a terminally ill, mentally competent patient who wants to end his life. It has also become the first state to approve the practice through legislation, instead of via a public referendum (as in Oregon and Washington) or a court decision (in Montana).
The Vermont House of Representatives approved the measure by a 75-to-65 vote on Monday night, after 17-to-13 approval in the Senate last week. Gov. Peter Shumlin has said he will sign it into law…
Supporters of what advocates call “death with dignity”…have been introducing similar legislation in Vermont since the mid 1990s. In the only previous vote, a bill went down to defeat in the state house in 2007.
Given polls that consistently show broad support among Vermont voters, a referendum might well have passed years ago, said Michael Sirotkin, one of the lawyers representing the group Patient Choices at End of Life Vermont. But the state doesn’t permit ballot initiatives, so organizers turned to the legislature.
“I’d say this is actually a harder path, because often the public is ahead of legislators on controversial issues,” Mr. Sirotkin said…
…When the law takes effect after the governor signs it, it will initially closely follow the Oregon model, with numerous statutory procedures and safeguards meant to protect patients against coercion or changes of heart. It adopts the same 15-day waiting period between the patient’s first request for medication and the second, for example, and requires a second physician’s evaluation.
But three years later, those requirements drop away, and a lethal prescription for a mentally competent patient expected to die within six months becomes largely a private matter between doctor and patient.
I guess I’ll never wear out using the word, “overdue”. As much as I tease folks here in the Southwest that what I miss most about New England are legislators with backbone and brains – there aren’t a whole boatload of progressive laws being passed that I wouldn’t have voted for fifty years ago.
I honestly believe that a culture of fairness and knowledge could have instituted an end to bigoted laws dividing civil rights, use and possession of mood-altering substances, the right to a death with dignity – decades ago. And ordinary folks would have voted against sending our military off to fight wars all over the globe for the glory and advancement of corporate America.