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Group Urging Repeal of Vermont’s End of Life Law

WAMC/Pat Bradley

A group opposed to Vermont’s new End-of-Life-Choices law has begun running ads on local television stations urging its repeal.

Vermont’s End-of-Life-Choices law allows terminally ill patients with less than six months to live to receive a prescription for a lethal dose of medicine. It went into effect on May 20th this year, when Governor Peter Shumlin signed the bill following a 10-year effort to get it enacted.
But the battle over the statute is not over. The lead opposition group - the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Health Care - has begun running ads on local television stations and on the web calling for repeal of the law.

Vermont Alliance for Ethical Health Care President Edward Mahoney, a Professor of Religious Studies and bioethics at St. Michael’s College in Burlington, is calling for full repeal of Act 39.

Mahoney plans to meet with consultants, lobbyists and key legislators before the legislature resumes its session in January to assess the odds of repeal.

Governor Peter Shumlin and Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith, both Democrats,  supported the End of Life Choices bill. Speaker Smith believes patients facing terminal illness should have the rights that the law provides. While opponents of the law criticize it for a lack of safeguards, Smith counters that there are numerous protections.

Asked if there’s any chance of a review of Act 39 when the legislature reconvenes in January, Speaker Smith says: not likely.

Vermont was the fourth state to enact what is known as a death with dignity, physician assisted suicide, or physician aid in dying, law. Participation by patients or medical professionals is voluntary.

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