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For Immediate Release: Vermont Senate Passes Amended Death with Dignity Bill

Contact: Peg Sandeen, MSW, Executive Director
              Death with Dignity National Center
              503-228-4415
              psandeen@deathwithdignity.org

The Vermont legislature is in a position to enact historic legislation in the next few days. Should the Vermont House vote to concur with a Senate amendment passed on Wednesday, May 8, Vermont will become the first state in the nation to pass a Death with Dignity law through the legislative process.

The bill has had a difficult journey to passage and faces two more hurdles: the above-mentioned House concurrence and signature by the Governor. In past statements, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin has promised to sign carefully-safeguarded Death with Dignity legislation, and he issued the following statement today:

I understand the deep convictions held by Vermonters on all sides of this extraordinarily personal issue. But I also know how important it is for those who face terminal illness and tremendous pain to have this choice, in conjunction with their physicians and loved ones, in the final days of their lives. I am grateful for the Legislature's continued hard work on this difficult issue.

Legislative committees have heard days of emotional testimony from opponents and supporters, including Ann Jackson, former Executive Director of the Oregon Hospice Association and George Eighmey, who helped terminally ill Oregonians navigate the Oregon's Death with Dignity law for 12 years. Lawmakers themselves participated in days of debate and several rounds of voting. The House concurrence vote, likely to occur in the next few days, will be the bill's second trip to the House this year.

In fact, legislators have been exploring this issue since 2003 in the Green Mountain State, when a bill entitled the Vermont Death with Dignity Act was introduced by 38 sponsors in the House and 8 members in the Senate. According to Peg Sandeen, Executive Director of the Death with Dignity National Center, "We are so pleased that legislators in Vermont have taken another bold step toward expanding end-of-life options for terminally ill Vermonters. We have been committed to policy reform efforts in Vermont for over 10 years, and we are proud to partner with the dedicated individuals involved in Patient Choices Vermont."

As with any legislation, there are no guarantees the House will support the Senate's version of the proposed law. Sandeen added, "While there are no promises nor guarantees when it comes to the legislative process, our research shows Vermont has led the nation on improving indoor air quality, marriage equality, prescription drug access and Medicaid reform, we believe Vermont will take the lead on end-of-life care reform, also." Should the Vermont House concur with the Senate version of the bill, Vermont will become the third state in the US, following Oregon and Washington, with a carefully-safeguarded law allowing terminally ill and mentally competent adults to hasten their deaths.

Posted on May 9, 2013 in New England, Press Room, Vermont

Comments

Posted by Vincent J. Patti (not verified) on May 9, 2013 at 04:12 p.m.

I am a 58 year old, American, caucasian male. Nobody asked me what I thought about "original sin" or whether I wanted to be baptized into Catholicism. Nobody asked me whether I wanted the tip of my penis brutally cut off for some unproven notion of cleanliness in order to support a cash cow medical complex.
Nobody helped my birth mother to keep me when she was 15 and had to give me over to the NYC foster care system in which I was sexually, physically and emotionally abused. Nobody taught my adoptive parents not to humiliate, scream at and physically abuse their children (like they were as children). Nobody prepared me how to effectively face the Bronx in NY as a gay youngster in the 1950's and 60's. Everybody blamed me when I diagnosed with AIDS in 1982. The head rhumatologist at NYU Medical Center told me I was psychiatrically challenged for complaining about continued pain after the medical profession had once again overlooked the fact that I have lupus (in 1988). Living with lupus and AIDS is remarkably challenging. I am greatful that until now I have had the physical and emotional wherewithal to cope with this ogoing battle which is ever weakening, worsening and disheartening. Now I have to look forward to having an unnecessarilly prolonged, excessively painful and appalingly undignified death because people have "their opinions" about what I should and should not do with my own body. Well, people's opinions have always been adverse to my surviving, thriving and productivity. I am now looking to have as good and uncomplicated a death as I can.

Posted by joelle adlerblum (not verified) on May 9, 2013 at 04:12 p.m.

I strongly support death with dignity, and the right of choice of each individual.

Posted by Darlene King (not verified) on May 10, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.

It seems to me that it is the religious people who are so terrified of death. They are not even supposed to believe in death. Leaving the body is just a transition. Why torture the soul by imprisoning it to a vehicle that no longer works, or that is in constant suffering, anquish and pain? I have a right to the pursuit of my own life and happiness, and happiness may well be deciding the time and nature of my own transition. There are many things worse than the demise of the body. Decisions regarding my own health and my own life are my own business - no one elses.

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