Peter Shumlin, the outgoing governor of Vermont, fought hard to legalize assisted suicide in the state; so it was no surprise when he listed it among other “accomplishments” in his farewell speech this week.  A big surprise, however, came when the governor revealed that his own father died from assisted suicide.  See  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRBvYw3n_GA, beginning at minute 54:50.

Bristling with pride, Shumlin said that never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that his own father would die in this way.  In May of 2011, however, True Dignity commented on a speech he made at a VT showing of the film “How to Die in Oregon”.  The speech can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-X7tDAr7QiI,  beginning at Minute 1:40.  Speaking about how much he hoped VT would enact legal assisted suicide, he actually used his parents as illustrations of why he felt legalization was important.

Here, in italics, are our comments at the time:

We were offended by the governor’s filmed jokes about how his apparently healthy but aged parents haven’t responded as he would have liked to his attempts to have “the conversation” to plan for their dying (in the video the audience laughs when he says he asked where they planned to be in ten years).

… We need….to fight against the seduction of his not so soothing words about how Vermonters “take care of each other”, when he speaks words like these in the context of a conversation about assisted suicide.

In 2017 we are even more offended than we were in 2011.  It is hard to believe that any governor would brag about facilitating a single suicide in his state.  It is even harder to hear that governor brag about facilitating the suicide of his own parent.

Back in 2011, we were sorry for and feared for Peter Shumlin’s parents.  It is self-evident to us that any suggestion that suicide is a viable end of life option for another person is itself pressure and can never be anything else If we heard the words Shumlin spoke in 2011 from one of our adult children, we would feel pressured, and we would not forget. No act done under pressure, even the most well-meaning pressure, is ever completely free.

We hope one day to live again in a state in which the sick and elderly are legally protected from such pressure, however well-meaning or inadvertent.  Our new governor, Phil Scott, voted against legal assisted suicide when it was passed in 2013.  Let’s ask him to work for its repeal now.  Contact information will follow in the coming weeks.

The DC City Council is holding a second and final vote tomorrow on the assisted suicide bill that recently passed in its first vote.  Those opposing this dangerous law, which will surely result in premature deaths without consent and which will influence legislators in other states, are asking people from all over the country to contact the council members asking them to vote NO.  Emphasize the fact that this proposed law will not protect anyone from coercion. There are absolutely no protections for the patient once he or she gets a doctor to prescribe the lethal dose of barbiturates. The law requires no witnesses to the ingestion of the drugs, so sick people will be at the mercy of people who will benefit from their deaths.  The law puts everyone, rich or poor, at risk.

Here is the contact information:

Phone Numbers:

Anita Bonds – Tel: (202) 724-8064 | Fax: (202) 724-8099
David Grosso – Tel: (202) 724-8105 | Fax: (202) 724-8071
Elissa Silverman – Tel: (202)-724-7772 | Fax: (202)-724-8087
Robert C. White Jr. – Tel: (202) 724-8174 | Fax: (202) 727-8210
Brianne Nadea – Tel: (202) 724-8181 | Fax: (202) 724-8109
Jack Evans – Tel: (202) 724-8058 | Fax: (202) 724-8023
Brandon T. Todd – Tel: (202) 724-8052 | Fax: (202) 741-0908
Kenyan McDuffie – Tel: (202) 724-8028 | Fax: (202) 724-8076
Charles Allen – Tel: (202)-724-8072 | Fax: N/A
Yvette Alexander – Tel: (202) 724-8068 | Fax: (202) 741-0911
LaRuby May – Tel: (202)724-8045 | Fax: (202)724-8055

Email addresses:

[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected],

From a media release issued yesterday by the Alliance Defending Freedom:

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed suit in federal court in Burlington Tuesday against officials in the Vermont Board of Medical Practice and the Office of Professional Regulation on behalf of health care professionals who wish to abide by their oath to “do no harm.” The state agencies are construing Vermont’s assisted suicide law as requiring them, regardless of their conscience or oath, to counsel patients on doctor-prescribed death as an option.

According to the agency, only physicians must refer patients to others who will counsel for assisted suicide; however, all of the health care professionals filing suit contend it is unethical for them to counsel for, refer for, or in any other way participate in suicide at the hands of medical personnel.

“The government shouldn’t be telling health care professionals that they must violate their medical ethics in order to practice medicine,” said ADF Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden. “These doctors and other health care workers deeply believe that suffering patients need understanding and sound medical treatment, not encouragement to kill themselves. The state has no authority to order them to act contrary to that sincere and time-honored conviction.”

Although Act 39, Vermont’s assisted suicide bill, passed with limited protections for healthcare providers, state medical licensing authorities have construed a separate, existing mandate to counsel and refer for “all options” for palliative care to include the option of assisted suicide. The Vermont Department of Health adopted this expansive reading.

The department’s FAQ page on Act 39 says the following: “Do doctors have to tell patients about this option? Under Act 39 and the Patient’s Bill of Rights, a patient has the right to be informed of all options for care and treatment in order to make a fully-informed choice. If a doctor is unwilling to inform a patient, he or she must make a referral or otherwise arrange for the patient to receive all relevant information.”

Echoing this position, Cindy Bruzzese, executive director of the Vermont Ethics Network, which the state has given authority to speak about the standard of care in Vermont, stated in a 2013 presentation on Act 39 that physicians have a duty to inform patients of the availability of assisted suicide.

“This is nothing but the redefinition of ‘palliative care’ to mean providing assisted suicide, an intolerable position for Plaintiffs and other conscientious physicians and healthcare professionals,” the complaint filed in Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare v. Hoser states. “Plaintiffs, state and national associations of conscientious healthcare professionals whose personal and professional ethics oppose the practice of assisted suicide, bring this action on behalf of their members against the operation of Act 39 to force them to counsel and/or refer for the practice.”

Today, with very little notice, no public testimony, no public expert testimony, and almost no discussion in committee, the New York Assembly’s Health Committee voted 14-11 to report out an assisted suicide bill, A.10059, euphemistically entitled “Medical Aid in Dying Act”.

The bill was sent on the the Assembly’s Codes Committee. Please email every member of that committee. It doesn’t matter where you live. If this bill passes, it will be viewed by the proponents of assisted suicide as another domino’s falling, a big domino like California. Your voice can make the difference.

Here is the contact information for the Codes Committee members:

Thomas Abinanti: [email protected]
James Brennan: [email protected]
Vivian Cook: [email protected]
Stephen Cymbrowitz: [email protected]
Joseph Giglio: [email protected]
Al Graf: [email protected]
Charles Lavine:[email protected]
Tom McEvitt:[email protected]
Michael Montesano :[email protected]
WalterMosley:[email protected]
Daniel O’Donnell:OdonnellD[email protected]
N. Nick Perry:[email protected]
J. Gary Pretlow:[email protected]
Edward Ra:[email protected]
Robin Schimminger:[email protected]
Claudia Tenney:[email protected]
Michele Titus:[email protected]
Helene Weinstein:[email protected]
David Weprind:[email protected]
Keith L. T. Wright:[email protected]
Kenneth Zebrowski:[email protected]

Rep. Al Baldasaro of the New Hampshire Legislature on May 11 gave an impassioned speech against a proposed “study committee” to look at “end of life choices.”  Speaking on behalf of Veterans’ PTSD/TBI Commission, he cited the fact that New Hampshire is facing an epidemic of suicides among Veterans, and said, “What message are you sending to the communityout there and all the good work every one of us has done to protect people from killing themselves? Now we want to make it easy?”

He said that opening the door to such a practice would have grave consequences for veterans at risk for suicide, and that even studying such a bill would threaten efforts to help veterans.   He clearly states that euphemisms such as “aid in dying” don’t change the fact that such laws promote suicide and threaten efforts to protect people from killing themselves.



News sources are reporting with surprise and seeming alarm on the Center for Disease Control’s newly released statistics showing that deaths by suicide in the entire US are on the rise.  Why the surprise?  It has been common knowledge since the rise of mass media, and even before, that advertising works.

True Dignity has neither the expertise nor the time to analyze the CDC report’s statistics  in detail.   A few quotes will suffice to paint the picture of our current situation.

“The suicide rate in the United States increased by 24% from 1999 through 2014…among all groups.  The increase in suicide rate has been steady since 1999, before which there was a consistent decline since 1986…”  (USA Today, April 22, 2016, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/04/22/suicide-rate-rise-us/83284568/).

The USA Today article speculates (which is all anybody can do) that the rise is linked to a poor economy.  We at True Dignity cannot fail to note that the rise began just as the economic boom of the 1990s was beginning to wind down, and continued through the fairly affluent 2000s, admittedly rising at a higher rate beginning in 2006, on the brink of the Great Recession (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db241.htm).

Though the economy may well have contributed to this rise, True Dignity calls everyone’s attention to a fact that is being ignored.  1998 was the year in which Oregon became the first state in the nation to put legalized assisted suicide into practice.  This happened after a furious and widely publicized public argument between pro-assisted suicide forces and those opposing it, an argument waged in the courts and eventually decided by the US Supreme Court, which allowed it in Oregon but declined to make it a right nationally.  1999 was the first year for which the state of Oregon issued its annual report on its assisted suicide deaths.  Ironically, this supposedly neutral government report called assisted suicide by the attractive name given to the law that made it legal: Death with Dignity.

The World Health Organization (http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/resource_media.pdf) has warned the media that 1) “Language that misinforms the public about suicide or normalizes it should be avoided”, and that the media should  2)“Avoid prominent placement and undue repetition of stories about suicide.”  Yet, beginning in the period leading up to the implementation of the Oregon law and reaching a climax with Brittany Maynard’s picture on the cover of People, there has been relentless media promotion of suicide, relentless misinformation about laws that allow medical professionals to facilitate deaths of people who could have lived years and that contain virtually no protections against euthanasia or even murder of a person who, believing him or herself to be terminally ill, has obtained a lethal prescription.  We have detailed the ways in which the laws allow this to happen so many times that we won’t repeat ourselves here, only urge you to search our topic list.

Bottom line: Compassion and Choices has engaged in an ad campaign, both paid and freely given by the media, and it has been effective.  The only thing that should surprise us about the rise in suicide deaths is that it has not been even bigger.   We hope that the efforts of many individuals and groups, including ours, have, by calling suicide exactly what the World Health organization has urged the media to call it, “a public health problem”, contributed to that fact, the only silver lining to a terrible cloud hanging over our nation and the world.

Will we be able to hold the line? California has been the only US state to legalize assisted suicide since the Maynard campaign, but legalization is a threat in multiple states.  Canada’s highest court has ruled that assisted suicide is a right, and has ordered Parliament to write laws to regulate it.

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