North Country News
6:30 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Vermont Senate Moves Modified Assisted Death Bill to House

Vermont Statehouse
Credit WAMC

The Vermont Senate has passed a physician-assisted suicide bill and moved it to the House chamber.  But the amended bill is substantially different than the original bill presented to lawmakers.

The Vermont Senate passed the “Patient Choice and Control at End of Life” bill late Thursday. It grants immunity from criminal or civil liability to health care professionals and family members when treating or helping a terminally ill patient who decides to end their own life.

Patient Choices Vermont President Dick Walters has advocated for a death with dignity bill for a decade.  Walters avoided discussing changes made to the measure, but said he’s  delighted to see it move to the House.

The Vermont Medical Society is more supportive of the amended version, but worries the House will revert to the original version. Executive Vice President Paul Harrington explains that’s because they oppose physician assisted suicide.

The Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights is opposed to the original bill. President Ed Paquin says they haven’t had time to adequately assess the amendment that the Senate wrote and passed over the course of two days.

The bill passed in Vermont’s Senate despite cautions from the state Attorney General and the Governor. Attorney General Bill Sorrell says the Senate dropped many of the safeguards contained in the original draft.

The bill, called physician-assisted suicide by opponents, or death with dignity by supporters, passed the Vermont Senate on a 22-8 vote.

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