Sixty Vermont Legislators who voted to repeal Act 39 today will be able to sleep knowing they did the right thing to protect vulnerable Vermonters. Rep. Paul Poirier (I-Barre) co-sponsor of the amendment to repeal Act 39, made an impassioned plea on behalf of disabled Vermonters, noting the uniform opposition of the disability community to Act 39. He reminded his fellow legislators of their responsibility to prevent abuse, saying, “We are the lawmakers in Vermont! It is our responsibility (to protect the vulnerable).”
Unfortunately, 83 legislators turned a deaf ear to Poirier’s arguments and others presented by numerous legislators who spoke in favor of a wholesale repeal of Act 39. Amendment co-sponsor Anne Donahue (R-Northfield) stated that “Abuse is happening.” She cited a case she is personally familiar with in which a 90-year-old woman who does not have a terminal diagnosis has been pressured by caregivers to use Act 39 to end her life.
Others described the numerous deficiencies, dangers and unknowns related to Act 39.
Perhaps most compelling were personal stories from legislators who shared their own experiences with terminal diagnoses. Rodney Graham (R-Williamstown) stunned listeners with his revelation that, “Had this law been in place when I received my diagnosis, I would have asked for the drugs, so I am very thankful it was not law then.” He said his prognosis was wrong and his cancer has been managed with surgery and drugs. He emotionally expressed gratitude that he has lived to see his daughter graduate from nursing school, grandchildren be born, and other important family milestones. He urged his fellow legislators to vote for the amendment to repeal Act 39.
After the vote defeating the amendment to repeal, Rep. Corey Parent (R-St. Albans) noted, “I don’t understand how anyone could have voted not to repeal after hearing that story.”
Neither do we.
The House took a voice vote to approve S.108, which proposes to repeal the “sunset” in Act 39 and retain its minimal safeguards, and will continue debate tomorrow, after which a final vote is expected.
To view the roll call: http://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Documents/2016/Docs/JOURNAL/hj150429.pdf
Scroll to page 4. A “yes” vote is a vote for full Repeal of Act 39; a “no” is a vote to keep this dangerous and flawed law in place.