Vermont to Hold Vote Regarding Assisted Suicide as Opponents Urge Protections for Elderly, Disabled

A vote is set for Wednesday in the Vermont legislature that would legalize assisted suicide should it pass, which would make Vermont the third state to pass such a measure in the United States.

A preliminary vote was held by the Health and Welfare Committee of the Vermont Senate last week, and the motion to proceed was upheld with a 5-0 vote. The bill was then sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which heard testimony from both supporters as well as opponents to the measure.

Should the State Senate pass the bill it would make Vermont the third state, behind Oregon and Washington, to legalize assisted suicide, which opponents claim would adversely affect the elderly, disabled and terminally ill who may feel pressure to end their own lives prematurely.

"Many people with disabilities understand the euphemism to convey that it is more dignified to die than to live in pain, or with a lack of mobility, or without the ability to self-care," Ed Paquin, of Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights, stated before the committee.

"These are day-to-day factors in the lives of many people with disabilities, and the implication that our lives lack dignity adds to a stigma that is not only unwarranted but damaging," he added.

Still proponents maintain that patients, who are terminally ill with less than six months to live, should have the option to end their suffering.

The measure has gotten a strong backing form the state's governor, Peter Shumlin, who has been a vocal advocate of assisted suicide and has brought up the issue several times during his governorship.

"As governor, I will strongly champion death with dignity legislation," Shumlin previously stated in 2010, according to the Burlington Free Press. "I have been a sponsor of this legislation for multiple years and I have a track record of bringing people together to get tough things done."

The state's legislature previously defeated a similar bill in 2007.