Yesterday, the Vermont House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill that will legalize doctor-assisted suicide. The State Senate had approved the measure previously. All that remains is for Governor Peter Shumlin to sign the bill and the Patient Choices at the End of Life Act will become the law.
The bill is patterned after the Oregon model, which has several built-in safeguards. These include a requirement that the patient state three times – once in writing – that they want to die. Another safeguard is the requirement of a concurring opinion from a second doctor that a patient has less than six months to live and is of sound mind.
Critics of the bill feel that there is potential for abuse of senior citizens, while those in support of it believe that it makes a positive statement about the value of personal freedom.
If the governor signs the bill, Vermont will become only the fourth state in the US to permit doctors to help patients to die by writing a prescription for a lethal dose of medication. The other three states – all in the west – where this is legal are Oregon, Washington state and Montana.