Take Action: Vermont Assisted Suicide Bill

Editor’s Note: If you are a citizen of Vermont, please read this message. If you have friends in Vermont, please send this article to them.

When the House Human Services Committee had not taken up H-168, the “Death With Dignity” bill, by the end of March, many thought it would not become an issue during the 2005 legislative session.  However, Chairperson Ann Pugh announced a few days ago that the committee would take testimony and have committee discussion all next week, April 12-15. The schedule includes an evening of public testimony on Tuesday, April 12.  The hearing will begin at 7:00PM in one of the large rooms at the Statehouse in Montpelier, but those who plan to testify (see below) should be there by 6:15-6:30 to sign up.

We ask for your help.  Please do one or more of the following in the next week:

(1)  Please CONTACT COMMITTEE MEMBERS.  If you haven’t done so recently, please call, write, e-mail or speak personally with the members of the House Human Services Committee (contact info below) to express your opposition to H-168.  A few committee members have already taken a stand in opposition; a few support the bill; and some are undecided.  ALL need to hear your concerns.  Numbers of contacts are important, even if only a one sentence note of opposition.  Better yet, a short, concise, civil note expressing one or more of the reasons for your opposition (see below).  Ask your like-minded friends to make contacts also.  Seriously — forward this e-mail to friends who you know oppose this bill.

(2)  Plan to ATTEND THE PUBLIC HEARING to lend support and encouragement to those who testify.  Numbers of individuals who show up is very important.  The retired folks from Wake Robin who are pushing this bill will predictably be there in significant numbers.  It is very important that we show the Human Services Committee that there are substantial numbers who care enough about this issue to give up an evening to show their opposition.

(3)  Better yet, please be willing to TESTIFY AT THE PUBLIC HEARING.  It may seem like a big sacrifice to give up several hours for travel and sitting in order to speak for 2 minutes.  But it is so important.  

(4)  LETTERS TO THE EDITOR would also help establish the breadth and depth of concern among Vermonters on this issue.

Suggestions for your contacts or testimony:

  • PAS is not needed.  Patients already have to right to stop any life-prolonging treatment they no longer want.  Good palliative care and hospice methods can alleviate the symptoms and provide the needed support at the end of life.
  • The reason for use of PAS in Oregon is not pain, but desire for control.
  • Experience has shown abuses, complications, and expansions of criteria where PAS has been legalized.
  • There are too many unanswered questions about the Oregon experience.
  • It would place vulnerable Vermonters at risk of pressure to request PAS ? the elderly, the infirm, individuals with disabilities.
  • We should first provide access to healthcare for everyone in Vermont, with special focus on the physical, social, psychological and spiritual needs of individuals with chronic and life-threatening illnesses.
  • Real death with dignity is excellent whole-person care at the end of life.  The proposed “Death With Dignity” bill would place a societal stamp of approval on suicide.
  • Official statements of opposition have been expressed by healthcare professionals, suicide prevention advocates, disability rights advocates, pro-life advocates and religious leaders from diverse faith traditions in Vermont.
  • Other resources and information at the vaeh website (www.vaeh.org)

Contact information for members of the House Human Services Committee:

Representative Ann D. Pugh; D; Chair
67 Bayberry Lane; South Burlington, VT  05403                         

UVM, Dept. of Social Work                                                                              

Representative Michael Fisher; D; , Vice-Chair
364 Cobb Hill Road; Lincoln, VT  05443                                    

Addison County Parent Child Center; Box 646; Middlebury 05753                       

Representative Anne B. Donahue; R
148 Donahue Drive; Northfield, VT 05663                                                        
adonahue@leg.state.vt.us                      counterp@tds.net

Representative William R. Frank; D
19 Poker Hill Rd; Underhill, VT  05489                                                              

Representative Patsy French; D
886 Harlow Hill; Randolph, VT  05060                           

Representative Stephen Green; D
242 Rowell Hill Rd; Berlin, VT  05602                                       

SGreen@leg.state.vt.us             sjgreen@sover.net

Representative Sandy Haas; P
P.O. Box 25; Rochester, VT  05767                                                                  
SHass@leg.state.vt.us               shass@sover.net

Representative Thomas F. Koch; R
326 Lowery Road; Barre (Town), VT  05641                             

Bernasconi & Koch P.C.; P.O. Box 892; Barre  05641                                      

Representative Clint Martin; D
903 French Meadow Road; Springfield, VT  05156                                             
cmartin@leg.state.vt.us             ctm@vermontel.com

Representative Norman H. McAllister; R
712 Hanna Road; Franklin, VT  05457                           

Representative Katherine R. Niquette; R
64 Ford Lane; Colchester, VT  05446                                         865-2180
KNiquette@leg.state.vt.us                     RennNiquette@aol.com