It is now clear that the Vermont legislature will adjourn the 2011 session without even considering the bill to legalize assisted suicide. It is just as clear that the proponents will do all they can to pass the bill in the next session of congress. That means they plan to lobby their Senators as hard as they can. We can be sure they won’t rest while the legislators are home between sessions. We have heard that the fate of the bill rests on the shoulders of one brave Senator.
We can’t rest either. All of our legislators and the press need to hear from us at every opportunity that we oppose legalizing assisted suicide, for the following and other reasons:
• The Vermont bill as written is a quite simply recipe for abuse of elders, the disabled, and the sick. It protects doctors. There are some protections for patients up to the time they get the lethal medication, but absolutely none once the patient fills the prescription. How can anyone think the people of Vermont are stupid enough to accept a bill that requires no witnesses at the time a lethal overdose of barbiturates is taken?!
• The bill cannot be made safe. Legalizing assisted suicide destroys true patient choice, creating pressures because of cost and because of the sense legalization gives that being dependent is a burden to caretakers and the government
• Legalized assisted suicide devalues and threatens the lives of the disabled, for the same reasons.
• Legalizing assisted suicide will result in the deaths of patients who were not really dying. Everyone knows true stories of people told they had months or weeks to live who lived for years. Misdiagnosis that results in referral to hospice can be corrected. Misdiagnosis that leads to assisted suicide cannot.
• Legalizing assisted suicide for patients judged to be terminally ill would raise the general suicide rate by sending the message that suicide is an acceptable solution to depression and existential suffering.
• The slippery slope from assisted suicide only for the terminally ill to assisted suicide for anyone who wants it is real and has been documented in European countries.
• The slippery slope for assisted suicide to euthanasia is real too, as is the slippery slope between voluntary and involuntary euthanasia.
• Legalization of assisted suicide is not needed; people already have the means to commit suicide.
• What we need are better access to palliative care and a societal understanding that there are times when compassionate care aimed only at relieving suffering, not at extending life, is the best care. The horrors of overtreatment feed the fears that lead people to advocate for and request assisted suicide. The proponents, not we, are the ones driven by the fear of death.
A May 2 Vermont Press Bureau article published in the Rutland Herald (http://www.rutlandherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110502/NEWS02/705029961) quotes Governor Shumlin on the assisted suicide bill: “I want to sign that bill in my first term as governor.” We need to continue working to make sure he does not get to do that. We at True Dignity Vermont will continue to post the best information we can find to help Vermonters fight assisted suicide.