Bill to Legalize Assisted Suicide Unveiled in Vermont

Montpelier, VT ( -- Advocates of assisted suicide in Vermont have introduced a bill there to legalize the deadly practice. The legislation is based on an Oregon law that made the western state the first in the nation to allow doctors to assist patients in killing themselves.

In a speech last week to an Episcopal church congregation, state Sen. Dick McCormack, the sponsor, claimed the bill would provide adequate safeguards to ensure that assisted suicide isn't abused.

McCormack, also the statewide coordinator for End of Life Choices, former the Hemlock Society, said the bill would allow patients who are expected to die within six months to request drugs to take their life.

The legislation has prompted some doctors in the state to form a new organization dedicated to defeating it.

Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare has been formed in an attempt to prevent assisted suicide from becoming legal. The group sponsored a March luncheon for legislators to educate them about the dangers of assisted suicide.

"This legislation is not needed and it's dangerous," Dr. Robert Orr, the group's president, told roughly 60 lawmakers.

Orr, who formed the group with 16 other doctors, said Vermont has gained a reputation as a pioneer in palliative and hospice care, which he said provides patients with comfort in the dying process rather than hastening their death. And unlike most other states, Vermont offers these services in every community, he said.

"I cannot emphasize too strongly that if this bill passes, it's a sea change," he said, raising concerns that the premise of the bill flies in the face of the longstanding tradition of physician as a healer.

Pro-life groups are also expected to strongly oppose the measure.

The Vermont Right to Life Committee and the Catholic Diocese of Burlington have already indicated they will lobby against it.

They may have a tough time keeping the bill from becoming law.

In July, pro-life groups were outraged when the president of the Vermont Medical Society received only a slap on the wrist for euthanizing a patient. The doctors group has announced it will hold a series of forums in September allowing proponents and opponents of the bill to make their case.

Howard Dean, the former Governor and a presidential candidate, recently indicated he supports assisted suicide.

Related web sites: Vermont Right to Life -

Source: (9/2/03) (Steven Ertelt, Editor),

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