The statement below is published by permission of the author, Laura Zink of Bennington, who read it at the March 3 Manchester forum sponsored by the proponents of assisted suicide but attended by almost no one except people who came to express their opposition.
The VT Department of Health states: “Suicide, the taking of one’s own life, is a serious public health problem that devastates individuals.” The Department has developed goals to reduce the rates of suicide across the span of life and to reduce the harmful after-effects associated with suicidal behaviors and the traumatic impact of suicide on family and friends. Even as our Health Department attempts to prevent suicide, the Legislature is considering House Bill 274. Under the subject of “Health, End of Life and Patient-directed Dying”, the bill mandates a patient sign the following statement:
• “I request that my attending physician prescribe medication that will hasten my death”; and
• “I understand the full import of this request, and I expect to die when I take the medication to be prescribed.”
Where one might have been considered an accomplice to a suicide, H.274 protects the doctor who writes the prescription and the pharmacist who fills it with the bill’s wording: “Action taken…..shall not be construed for any purpose to constitute suicide, assisted suicide, mercy killing, or homicide under the law.”
The VT Legislature uses H.274 to re-name suicide by calling it “end of life, patient-directed dying”. By its own words, the Legislature absolves direct accomplices to a suicide from being accused of homicide. Advocates of physician-assisted suicide, the group known as “Patient Choices Vermont” believes the terminally ill will maintain hope in their final days, knowing they have some control of their end of life.
A wise and more balanced philosophy is offered by G.K. Chesterton:
• “Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all.”
• “To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”
• “Suicide…..is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man, kills a man.”