When I tell a stranger I’m from Vermont, inevitably a smile comes over their face. And the typical reaction, is “how wonderful; what a great state.” Their reaction is likely driven by Vermont’s Norman Rockwell image. It is a state filled with natural beauty and a wholesome hearty people who care deeply for their own.
For the past four years, Vermont has been recognized as having the country’s healthiest people by America’s Health Rankings. How sad that our beautiful, healthy Vermont is now at risk. If physician-assisted suicide becomes law in our great state, we will then be known as the state that fails to truly help those who are suffering, the state that ignores the value of life, and the state that takes the easy way out.
No one is spared life’s challenges. For those who have a debilitating or terminal illness, the challenges can be overwhelming. By offering a free pass to suicide for these individuals, we are marginalizing them. What if we instead, as their friends, their families and their caregivers, use our time and resources to help them see the beauty in each day lived. The lessons we learn in extending a hand to care for the sick and the dying are powerful. Those lessons are lost if we simply extend a hand filled with life-ending pills.
My husband was a physician. Every day of his practice, he followed the fundamental principle of medicine, “primum non nocere,” first, do no harm. He valued the life of every Vermonter. It is my wish that we do the same.
PAULINE J. AUSTIN