Legislators in the US state of Vermont have approved a “death-with-dignity” bill enabling terminally ill patients to request medication from their doctors to take their own lives.
The liberal-minded New England state becomes the third in the United States, after Oregon and Washington, to allow assisted suicide — but the first to do so by legislative process rather than a voter-initiated referendum.
Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, has declared that he will sign the End of Life Choice Bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives in the state capital Montpelier by a 75-65 vote.
“Legislators are now embracing the high margin of public support for end-of-life choices nationwide,” said Barbara Coombs Lee of Compassion and Choices, a group that campaigns for assisted suicide.
“The bill’s passage should enable legislatures in Massachusetts, New Jersey and other states that are considering aid-in-dying bills to approve them,” she said in a statement.
Under the Vermont bill, which takes effect once signed by Shumlin, terminally ill patients given no more than six months to live can ask their doctors to prescribe medication to help them die.
Several safeguards are built into the law, including a requirement for two medical opinions, the option of a psychiatric examination and a 17-day waiting period between the time a prescription is written and the moment it is filled.
["Doctor Speaking With His Patient" on Shutterstock]