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Montpelier, Vt (USA) — The Vermont House Human Services Committee hearing continues on the recently reintroduced assisted-suicide bill (H.44).

Full text of House Bill 44 (H.44) introduced to The Vermont General Assembly is available at

Subject: Health; end of life; patient-directed dying

Statement of purpose: This bill proposes, subject to appropriate safeguards, to allow a mentally competent person diagnosed with less than six months to live to request a prescription which, if taken, would hasten the dying process.

There are five co-sponsors on the bill — two Democrats, a Republican, a Progressive and an independent.

Many believe there may be a better chance for the bill to advance this year than in previous sessions when it was introduced. There are more supporters on key committees.

Rep. Ann Pugh, D-South Burlington, chairwoman of the House Human Services Committee says. “It’s a nonpartisan issue. It’s a non-geographic issue. It’s a personal issue.”

The Republican, Rep. Richard Hube of Londonderry, said he consulted with constituents, friends and clergy before deciding to sign on to the bill.

He concluded that patients with terminal conditions should have the option of taking their own lives if they choose and give informed consent. “Ultimately, it’s about choice,” Hube said.

Only one state permits doctors to assist with a patient’s death. Oregon adopted the policy a decade ago.

Those providing testimony to the Committee included former Oregon Gov. Barbara Roberts, who favors the initiative.

Vermont’s bill is based on the Oregon law. It would authorize a doctor to prescribe a fatal dose of medicine to a patient nearing death who had given informed consent.

“It’s a very common thing for people to ask, `Why am I still alive,'” said Dr. Diana Barnard, a Middlebury family practitioner. “I’m really advocating for people to have a choice and their own option to decide what dignity means for them at the end of life.”

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