Vermont passes law aiding Death with Dignity

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.

Vermont senators OK bill to decriminalize an OZ of pot

OZ pot

The Vermont Legislature gave final approval…to a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and hashish, clearing the way for the bill to be signed into law by a supportive governor.

The legislation would do away with criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and five grams of concentrated hashish derived from cannabis for people at least 21 years-old. Instead, those of legal age who are charged with possession within those amounts will face civil fines akin to a speeding ticket.

Alex Bullett, a 25-year-old who is originally from Maine but has been living in White River Junction for more than a year, described the law as a “step in the right direction toward legalization,” which he said would be “really good for everybody” as a revenue generator for the state…

Bullett…pointed to Colorado and Washington’s recent legalization of the recreational drug, estimating that the federal government’s prohibition on marijuana would soon be coming to an end.

“Within the decade, (the federal government) is going to have to give in on their sort of obscene war on drugs,” he said. “It hurts us more than it helps us.”

The legislation approved yesterday would align Vermont with other nearby states that have decriminalized marijuana possession, including Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. It leaves New Hampshire as the last hold-out in New England when it comes to stricter marijuana possession laws.

Overdue. RTFA for all the right reasons. But, then, if you made it this far on my blog – you probably already know the right reasons. 🙂

Canadian police save a man’s life using – of all things – a drone

While we hear a lot about the ways in which hovering aerial drones can potentially be used to violate peoples’ privacy, it’s always nice to know that they can help us, too. That was the case last Friday when RCMP from the Canadian city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan used a remotely-operated quadcopter to locate the victim of a single-vehicle rollover, which occurred in the countryside at near-freezing temperatures.

At 12:20 am, the Saskatoon RCMP first received a report of the rollover, and went out to the accident site to investigate – they were joined at the scene by fire rescue and emergency medical response teams. The car was located, but even after conducting a 200-meter ground search of the area, no occupants could be found.

An air ambulance helicopter was then called in, the crew of which used a night vision system to conduct a larger, aerial search. When that search also proved fruitless, the RCMP brought in Corporal Doug Green, a Forensic Collision Reconstructionist, along with the detachment’s forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera-equipped Draganflyer X4-ES quadcopter – the drone is made by Draganfly Innovations, which is itself based in Saskatoon.

By 2:10 am, the 25 year-old lone driver of the car made a 911 call from his mobile phone, letting police know that he was cold, and didn’t know where he was. With some help from the phone company, the GPS coordinates of his phone were triangulated, indicating that the call was made approximately 3.2 km south of the accident site.

Green moved to that area, and the X4-ES was relaunched. It picked up three heat signatures on its FLIR, one of which was the injured driver. He was located in a wooded area 200 meters from the site of his phone call, curled in a ball next to a snow bank at the base of a tree. He wasn’t wearing any outdoor clothing, had lost his shoes, and was unresponsive. Ground crews soon reached him, and proceeded to get him a hospital.

According to the RCMP, “Without the UAV and FLIR, searchers would not have been able to locate the driver until daylight.” For its part, Draganfly Innovations stated, “To our knowledge, this is the first time a public safety agency has saved a life using a sUAS (small Unmanned Aerial System) helicopter”.

Bravo! I’ve spoken before about not only repurposing our military – anyone else recall the “peace dividend”? That level of understanding and political will isn’t needed for repurposing and humanitarian use of hardware that folks think destined only for acts of death and destruction.