The letter below was published in today’s Bennington Banner. We agree wholeheartedly with its call to support Senator Sears.
True Dignity does not, however, support the letter-writer’s call for a referendum on assisted suicide. That would set off a year of ferocious campaigning on an issue that a May 2011 Gallup’s 2011 Values and Beliefs poll found to be “the most controversial cultural issue” in the US (http://www.gallup.com/poll/147842/doctor-assisted-suicide-moral-issue-dividing-americans.aspx). Tons of money and time would be wasted. Vermonters can make their opposition loud and clear at the polls in November and at campaign events before the elections. We should tell those legislators supporting assisted suicide that they must change if they want to be reelected. We should support legislators who have opposed the bill, like Bennington Democratic senators Dick Sears and Bob Hartwell, Bennington Republican house member Mary Morrissey, and Arlington Democratic house member Cynthia Browning. We should ask legislators who have kept their position on assisted suicide secret to make it public so that their constituents go to the polls with complete information on the candidates. We should urge new candidates to declare their opposition to the bill and tell them we will keep their position on assisted suicide in mind in making voting decisions.
True Dignity agrees with the author of this letter that it would be dangerous, if assisted suicide were unfortunately to become legal, to allow just any person over the age of 18 to act as a witness to the competence of a person requesting a lethal dose of barbiturates. We disagree, however, that witnesses should be family members or anyone else close to the patient. These are the very people who might want the patient dead sooner rather than later, for financial or a host of other reasons. Abuse of vulnerable people by family members, caregivers, newly found friends, etc. is an all too familiar phenomenon in Vermont and elsewhere. Disability Rights groups have sued the state of Vermont because of its long delays in investigating cases of such abuse (http://vtdigger.org/2011/12/15/groups-sue-state-for-failing-to-investigate-hundreds-of-cases-of-alleged-abuse-and-neglect-of-disabled-and-elderly-vermonters/). Amazingly, the state is fighting the suit instead of fixing the problem (http://www.boston.com/news/local/vermont/articles/2012/03/19/court_asked_to_dismiss_abuse_suit_against_vt/).
True Dignity Vermont believes, along with the letter-writer, that S. 103 and H. 274 are terrible bills, with all kinds of potential for abuse. The bottom line, however, is that we don’t believe any tinkering can fix legislation that makes assisted suicide legal. Legal assisted suicide is inherantly pressuring. There is no possible way to make it safe.
Here, in italics, is the letter, whch can also be read at http://www.benningtonbanner.com/opinion/ci_20254998/letter-support-senator-sears-this-issue.
Monday March 26, 2012
I commend Senator Dick Sears for his continuing opposition to bill S.103 proposing physician-assisted suicide and his work to keep the bill from getting to the Senate floor for a vote. As a result he is getting tremendous pressure from fellow Democrats and Governor Shumlin. He is also getting letters from around the country supporting the physician assisted suicide bill. Those of us who oppose the bill should write Sen. Sears encouraging him to maintain his resistance against the bill thus preventing it from becoming law.
I was in Montpelier last week, March 14, when the bill was before the committee to hear witnesses for and against the bill. While there I noticed the number of people wearing stickers opposing the bill outnumbered, by at least 4 to 1, those wearing stickers supporting the bill. This bill should be put on a referendum so the people of Vermont could decide, but this won’t happen because the proponents of the bill know it would be defeated.
I have read this bill and it is totally ridiculous. I would be ashamed to have my name associated with it. I found at least two dozen statements or requirements, which were inadequate and indefensible. I will point out only one. One paragraph requires that at least two people witness the signing and dating of the written request for medication by the patient. The only requirement for the witnesses is that they be at least 18 years of age. There are no other requirements, so these persons could be drug dealers, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, convicted criminals, etc. It seems they can be anybody except someone who might know about the mental condition of the patient like a spouse, relative, friend, person associated with a health care facility, guardian, lawyer, etc.
As I said, there are many ridiculous statements in this bill, but don’t take my word for it, read the bill yourself.
I pray Sen. Dick Sears continues to resist any kind of legalized suicide bill, amendment to another bill or any other process that could be used by proponents.