Thursday, July 31, 2014

Vermont: Repeal physician-assisted suicide, now

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/opinion/comment-debate/2014/07/30/repeal-physician-assisted-suicide-now/13334997/


I'm confused. Years ago we did away with the death penalty in Vermont (and rightly so) because we understood that despite the care and precision of our legal system, mistakes could be made and an innocent person could be wrongly put to death. The Legislature wasn't willing to take that chance and so abolished the death penalty.

Now we have Act 39 (physician-assisted suicide), another law whose only purpose is to result in the death of one of our citizens. Yet this law, with shockingly few protections and no oversight at all by our judicial system, passed the Legislature.

What is the difference here? A wrongful death is a wrongful death is a wrongful death.

Does the Legislature honestly believe our health care system is so perfect that there is absolutely no chance for error? It doesn't appear so since the Legislature is spending almost all their time trying to reform health care. That doesn't leave me feeling confident that the system is working 100 percent perfectly.

So, if the death penalty is wrong because an innocent person might die, why does the Legislature magically believe that no one will ever wrongfully die under Act 39?

Physician-assisted suicide is just as bad a law as the death penalty, and the Legislature needs to repeal it.

Now!

Michele Morin lives in Burlington.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Assisted Suicide Bill Passes

On May 20, 2013, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed S.77, an assisted suicide law, which creates legal paths of abuse and exploitation against persons who fall within its terms. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Assisted Suicide Bill is Dead!

[To view a legal analysis of the failed bill, go here]

"Death with dignity debate tabled"
By Susie Steimie, March 16, 2012

http://www.wcax.com/story/17176558/vt-lawmakers-right-to-die-bill-wont-pass

MONTPELIER, Vt. -

The death with dignity debate has been tabled and a state senator is in the hospital. The vice chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Alice Nitka, is currently in the hospital after an accident at her home Thursday. The committee was expected to vote on the controversial end of life bill Friday.

The bill would give terminally ill patients the right to end their own life. But instead of voting Friday, the chair met with Gov. Peter Shumlin to say the bill will not move.

This session marks the first hearing of the end of life bill in a Vermont Senate committee. But lawmakers say most of the work was done behind closed doors.

Reporter Susie Steimle: How much would you say politics have come into play here?

Sen. Diane Snelling: Quite a bit.

"Oh yeah, there's been some strong pressure. But there's strong pressure on a lot of bills. But this is an emotional bill; it hits everyone," said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington County.

Sears is holding his ground. He said the bill would not leave his committee this session. We now know that it won't.

As a seasoned senator with the president pro-tem on his side, much of the political pressure to keep this bill from moving came from him. On the other side it came from the governor, who supports the bill.
"When you're a good friend like I am with the governor, it's hard to tell when it's friendship and when it's pressure. But I know he's disappointed with the decision," Sears said.

The committee held extensive testimony this week, which drew hundreds of Vermonters from across the state.

Snelling, who supports the bill, says she fears this gave people false hope.

"I almost wish we hadn't taken testimony, which we did take, because in a sense that gets people to think something is going to happen," said Snelling, R-Chittenden County.

Snelling wanted to send this bill out of committee without recommendation, something Sears calls "wimpy."
"Saying we voted it out without recommendation is like saying we don't have the courage to stand up for what we believe," Sears said.

"I wish that this bill could come to the floor and I've heard from many people on both sides that it's a matter of conscience, in which case, let's vote on our conscience," Snelling said.

Snelling says at this point she's accepted defeat for this session, but that doesn't mean she's giving up.
"It's a difficult issue, I know it's a difficult issue, but I didn't come here to do easy things. So it's very important to stand on the strength of my convictions," Snelling said.

Both senators say it's likely some supporters of the end of life bill will try to attach it to the health care bill, which will be voted on later this session, but neither senator believes it will pass that way. Snelling says she expects it will be back next session.

Supporters don't know if there are enough votes to pass it in the Senate. It's extremely divided. I've heard the vote could be 16-14 either way, but part of the controversy here is this is truly a Senate battle; the House is ready to pass it and the governor supports it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Assisted suicide law sends contradictory message

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by Guy Page, a parent and resident of Cambridge.

http://vtdigger.org/2012/02/01/page-assisted-suicide-law-sends-contradictory-message/

In the Jan. 19 mail I received a letter from Lamoille Union High School, where my daughter is enrolled. It begins with the following sentence: “Over the last few years Vermont has seen an increase in suicide among young people.” It went on to describe a school initiative to hopefully address this awful development. I hope they are successful. All of my children have friends, or friends of friends, who have taken their own lives.

My eldest son, Tim, was a constant suicide risk through his teens. Through the wise, compassionate help of state social workers, Tim escaped his teen years alive. I can tell you that he was personally shaken by the implications, to him, of the proposed assisted suicide law several years ago. When he heard about it, my brilliant, troubled son began to shake in anger and almost despair. “Those hypocrites,” he said. “They’ve been telling me all this time that suicide is never OK.” It didn’t matter when I said the law is meant to address another set of problems – his teenaged hypocrisy-o-meter had already pegged assisted suicide as another example of “do as I say, not as I do, it’s all right for adults, not OK for kids.”

Recently I researched teen suicide in Oregon, where assisted suicide became legal in 1998. According to the Oregon health department website, there were more teen suicides after the law passed than before — 1999: 29 suicides. 2000: 44 suicides. 2001: 31. 2002: 37. 2003: 46. 2004: 52. The last two years were the highest two-year period in their survey. Furthermore, 94 percent of teen suicide attempts leading to hospitalization were caused by ingesting drugs – the only form of assisted suicide permitted by Oregon state law. Kids learn from their elders.  [See:  http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5635a2.htm]

Does this “prove” a link between the Oregon physician-assisted suicide law and teen suicide? No. But the burden of proof is on those who say, “Don’t worry, it will all be OK, none of our teens will think that.” As a parent of an at-risk child, I think this law may unintentionally tell other troubled teens “when it gets too hard it’s okay to end it all.” As the letter from my daughter’s high school says, the real world is a very hard place for some teens right now, and I think this law will just make it harder.

There are plenty of other reasons to oppose this bill. Before my wife passed in February 2011, she was appalled and upset at end-of-life questions asked of her in the ICU that to her seemed motivated by hospital cost-control. It drove a (thankfully temporary) wedge of distrust between her and her caregivers. So Vermont Insurance Commissioner Steve Kimball’s newspaper comments connecting this end-of-life issue with the high cost of health care were chilling. By contrast, Orange County Sen. Mark MacDonald’s daughter was one of Diane’s nurses and provided skilled, affirming care that should be the goal of the state’s health policy. But for me the teen suicide connection is reason enough for the Senate to drop this bill before it does irreversible harm.


Article printed from VTDigger: http://vtdigger.org/
URL to article: http://vtdigger.org/2012/02/01/page-assisted-suicide-law-sends-contradictory-message/
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