Vermont legalizes physician assisted death
On May 20, Vermont became the fourth state to grant doctors the right to help terminally ill patients end their lives. The law allows physicians to give patients death-inducing medication which patients could then administer to themselves.
The Vermont bill comes with preliminary safeguards similar to those in Oregon, another state that allows physician assisted death. During the first three years, the law requires ailing patients to make three requests for death-inducing drugs. Both the patient's primary physician and a consulting doctor must agree the patient is suffering from a terminal illness and is capable of making an informed decision to request death-inducing drugs.
After July 1, 2016, these initial regulations will be discontinued and physicians will be solely responsible for deciding whether or not assisted death is appropriate within the professional practice standards of medicine.
Since its adoption, the bill has been both lauded and criticized.
Advocates of assisted suicide say the practice can save years of suffering for patients of painful terminal illnesses, such as bone cancer, according to Reuters. "Vermonters who face terminal illness and are in excruciating pain at the end of their lives now have control over their destinies. This is the right thing to do," says Governor Peter Shumlin.
“Vermont has taken a huge step forward for the autonomy rights of terminally ill patients” says Dick Walters, president of Patient Choices Vermont in a statement. The group plans to provide information to people interested in the option of obtaining a lethal prescription, according to VTDigger.org.
The bill has also come under fire from groups opposed to the practice.
“Vermont is now identified as one of the few death states, where it is legal for life to be terminated both at its beginning and end stages,” says Salvatore R. Matano, the bishop of Burlington, in a statement released May 20.
"We now have state-sanctioned suicide in Vermont," says Edward Mahoney, president of theVermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, a group opposing the bill, in a statement."If the state won't protect Vermonters, we will try."