Aid In Dying Passed In Vermont

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May 23, 2013

For the most part, Vermont is a rather peaceful state. I rarely see our state mentioned in the national news. Days tend to go by at a slower pace than in many other states I’ve visited.  There’s little hustle and bustle, practically no traffic, and a lower crime rate than many people have to deal with. Sometimes, Vermont manages to make it to the front page of the national news sites. Tuesday was one of those days.

Aid In Dying Passed In Vermont

Vermont is the fourth state to pass death with dignity: otherwise known as “aid in dying measures.” These laws allow mentally competent, terminally-ill adult state residents to voluntarily request and receive a prescription medication to hasten their death.

Oregon, Washington, and Montana are the other three states who have enacted this process, however Vermont is the first state to have passed the measure via legislature. Oregon and Washington both passed aid in dying with a public referendum. Montana did so via a court ruling. In Vermont, the aid in dying measure has passed both the Senate and the House. Governor Peter Shumlin stated he will sign this, making it a law. This is the first time that a request like this has passed in legislature in any state.

This isn’t a new topic to be introduced in Vermont. The state has been trying to have physician-assisted suicide since the 1990s.  The most recent attempt was defeated in 2007.  While a majority of Vermont voters seemed to have been in favor of this measure, Vermont doesn’t allow voters to introduce ballot initiatives. Because of this, the only way to pass a law providing for aid in dying was through the legislature.

There has been some concern in the past with having the government be involved in the practice of medicine and possible coercion on this deeply personal issue. Because of this concern, the aid in dying law will be rolled out in a slightly different manner than in other states.  There will be a 15 day waiting period between the patient’s first request and second request.  There is also a requirement of a second physician evaluation.  It is hoped that with these safeguards in place, there will be no abuse of this new law. These safeguards will mostly disappear in three years when the decision is primarily one between the doctor and patient.  Proponents are hoping that in three years, this new bill will be overturned.

What are your thoughts? Has your state passed an aid in dying bill? Do you have concerns about the government’s involvement into personal health care decisions?

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