We have very little information on this compromise and have not been able to read it. Senator Peter Galbraith, who was the swing vote when the Senate voted to postpone last night, brokered the deal that led to passage over the strong objections of long-time opponents of legalizing assisted suicide in our state. He clearly won over one other senator to his side. We don’t yet know who that is.
Though Galbraith insists that this bill does not set up an Oregon-style state-sponsored process for a doctor to assist in a suicide, but simply exempts from prosecution doctors who answer a patient’s questions truthfully, we disagree with him. In fact, for the first three years doctors have to follow an Oregon-style process for writing the prescription and reporting on it. After three years, the law is supposed to revert to the more informal one passed last February by the Senate, a law which, after consideration, True Dignity has come to view as assisted suicide by another name.
Either form of the bill will hurt many people in order to fulfil the wishes of a few who could easily accomplish on their own what they insist they want to do. In particular, patients who have filled the lethal prescription will have absolutely no protection against being coerced or murdered by a greedy heir or an exasperated caregiver.
There may be some advantages to this bill over an Oregon style one, as Galbraith said. We need to see it to know what these are, if there are any.
According to senators who spoke on the floor, Senate proponents have already secured an agreement from the proponents in the House to pass this bill. It will become law in Vermont, with consequences that the Oregon experience make easy to predict.
This is a very sad day for Vermont and for our country.