Feed on

The Vermont House voted down an initiative Wednesday that would have given
terminally ill patients the ability to hasten their deaths with the help of
a physician.

After nearly four hours of sometimes emotional debate on the issue, members
of the House voted 82-63 against the proposal.

“In my view, (the bill) goes too far in enforcing one group’s preferences on
the traditional values of others,” said Rep. Harvey “Bud” Otterman,

Rep. William Aswad, D-Burlington, read a letter from a man who said he
wished his family had had the option when his father died a painful death
last year. The man urged Aswad to support the bill. “This letter cries out
for a `yes’ vote,” Aswad said.

The House chamber was packed with spectators as the House opened the debate.

There was little doubt where members of the audience stood on the bill,
which for days has been the subject of strong lobbying. Supporters sported
green stickers on their lapels; opponents wore yellow stickers.

Supporters were downcast at the defeat. “The organization certainly will
continue and it’ll be there and at the proper time we’ll be heard from again
because the vast majority of Vermonters want this issue,” said Dick Walters,
president of Death With Dignity. “That’s why it’s sad they weren’t heard.”

If approved and enacted into law, Vermont would have become the second state
in the nation _ Oregon was first _ to permit what’s known variously as death
with dignity or physician-assisted suicide. Supporters have adopted a new
moniker this year that they think is less judgmental: patient choice and
control at end of life.

Rep. Peg Flory, R-Pittsford, summed up the difficulty of the debate for many

“This whole area, this whole concept is a difficult one for us to deal
with,” she said. “We all want it to make it easier for our loved ones. We
all want to respect their wishes.”

Flory opposed the bill, saying she was not satisfied that it would help
people as much as advocates say.

The bill would have applied to people who have been diagnosed with a
terminal disease and have a prognosis of six months or less to live. They
would have had to have two different physicians determine that they would
qualify for a prescription that would hasten their deaths. They also would
have had to undergo counseling to determine they were mentally competent to
make the decision.

Additionally, patients would have had to take the medication to end their
lives on their own.

Advocates estimated, based on Oregon’s decade-long experience, that 10
Vermont patients per year would receive prescriptions under the law and six
would actually take the medicine and die as a result.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.