Governor Peter Shumlin signed a “death with dignity” bill today, making Vermont the fourth state in the country to legalize assisted suicide.
Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the measure in a state House ceremony in Montpelier, capping a decade-long effort on the issue in Vermont.
Vermont is the first state to pass such a law through the legislative process. Oregon and Washington enacted their laws by referendum; in Montana, it was legalized by the courts.
… The law, which went into effect Monday, allows for an end-of-life procedure with the consent of a patient’s doctor after the patient has made more than one request for help in ending life. The bill also stipulates that the patient has a chance to retract the request.
Under the bill, a qualifying patient must be at least 18 years old, a Vermont resident and suffering from an “incurable and irreversible disease,” with less than six months to live. Two physicians, including the prescribing doctor, must make that medical determination. The patient must also be told of other end-of-life services, “including palliative care, comfort care, hospice care, and pain control,” according to the bill.
Like most assisted suicide laws, there is no doubt that this bill was passed with good intentions. It almost always starts off as being “only for the terminally ill.” It’s hard to argue against that, because when someone is dying of an incurable disease, isn’t it kinder to let him die on his own terms? Vermont legislators have clearly fallen into that trap. And it’s a decision that, experience has shown, many people will come to regret. What always is left out of this equation is the fact that there’s nothing keeping someone from taking his own life if he so chooses – yet somehow, the idea of a doctor being the one to “pull the trigger” makes suicide easier for people to swallow.
Euthanasia and assisted suicide are becoming more and more fashionable, gaining traction in Australia, Canada, and now the United States as well. Why is that worrying? Because assisted suicide almost never remains limited to the terminally ill. Belgium is a good example, where people have been euthanized for anorexia, depression, and blindness. If that isn’t scary enough for you, then consider that Belgium is considering expanding its euthanasia program so that parents can kill their disabled children if they so choose, or so that Alzheimer’s patients could be put to death without having to consent first. Belgium’s law currently requires that a patient must be terminally ill or in extreme pain to undergo euthanasia, but that standard is clearly not being met in these cases.
That could just be one errant country though, right? Unfortunately, no. Switzerland began its assisted suicide program in the 1940s, claiming it was only for the terminally ill. Of course, over time, that’s been whittled away until anyone could choose to be killed at any time, for any reason, and recently even voted against regulating assisted suicide centers. There is literally no regulation or oversight for clinics that have made death a multimillion-dollar business.
Or you could look to the Netherlands, where Dutch doctors are able to euthanize virtually anyone, even if they do not or cannot consent, such as babies with birth defects.
In Canada, assisted suicide is currently illegal. But there are many people who are fighting for their “right to die.” The government in Quebec is looking to mirror Belgium’s laws and classify euthanasia as “health care.” But not everyone looking to establish euthanasia or assisted suicide in Canada wants to do it so he has the right to die himself – such people want to kill other people legally, such as children with disabilities. We also see these abuses in England, even though euthanasia is illegal, where the Liverpool Care Pathway has sentenced tens of thousands of patients to death without their consent.
There can be no doubt that Vermont’s assisted suicide law will not remain only for the terminally ill for long. It is overwhelmingly clear what happens when murder is sanctioned, regardless of what lawmakers’ good intentions might be. It opens the door to rampant abuse and often puts the most vulnerable individuals in our society – the elderly and disabled – at massive risk. Vermont residents should remain vigilant and, as they apparently do not get a say in this matter, hope that lawmakers don’t choose to expand assisted suicide even further.