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New Vermont Law to Allow Doctors Assist in Suicide
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On Monday, Vermont became the fourth state in the country to have a law permitting doctors to prescribe medication for terminally ill patients who sought death. But it was the first U.S. state to support self-assisted suicide through the full legislative process. A similar measure was authorized in Montana by a court in 2009, and in Washington and Oregon, such laws were passed through ballot measures.

Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, observed while signing the law, “Vermonters who face terminal illness and are in excruciating pain at the end of their lives now have control over their destinies. This is the right thing to do.”

The law removes legal penalties for doctors who prescribe medication to assist terminally ill patients seeking end their lives voluntarily. However, Vermont doctors can prescribe such medication only for legal residents of the state.


The law would be adapted in degrees and for the first three years, patients requesting death-inducing drugs would have to make the request thrice. Also, both the primary physician and a consulting physician will have to agree that the patient is capable of making an informed decision and also suffering from a terminal illness.

From July 1, 2016, the process and practice of prescribing death-inducing medicine will be supervised by professional practice standards.

Supporters of the law claim that the law can now help patients avoid years of needless suffering in cases like bone cancer or other terminal illnesses. However, opponents of the law remain skeptic and hold that the presence of the law can encourage terminally ill patients to go for assisted suicide without exhausting all options. Opponents are also apprehensive that the law can cause people to choose death rather than continue to be a burden on their families.

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Kathryn Tucker, director of legal affairs at Compassion and Choices said in a statement that, “Vermont’s law reflects another normalization of the practice of aid in dying in the practice of medicine.”

Edward Mahoney of True Dignity Vermont, a group opposing the law, said, “We now have state-sanctioned suicide in Vermont … If the state won’t protect Vermonters, we will try.”


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