Great news from Vermont today! After hearing testimony from various end-of-life care experts, advocates, and some opponents over the last two weeks, the Vermont House Human Services Committee decided to focus on bill language with safeguards modeled on the Oregon Death with Dignity legislation. All of us here at the Death with Dignity National Center applaud the Vermont House committee members on their decision and extend an enormous thank you to our partners, Patient Choices Vermont, for all of their hard work to get to this historic moment.
But let’s step back a moment, and get everyone caught up. Back in February, the Vermont Senate advanced Senate Bill 77 after drastically amending the language of the bill to remove the safeguards similar to the Oregon and Washington Death with Dignity Acts, and moved the bill to the state House for consideration. The bill was introduced and filed with the Vermont House Human Services Committee. Because the House Judiciary Committee is likely to be involved if Human Services decides to change the bill back to be more in line with the existing Death with Dignity laws, the two House Committees held joint hearings to gather testimony.
Last week, committee members heard from end-of-life care experts including George Eighmey, Anne Jackson, Harry Chen, and Diana Barnard. This week, the committees heard from advocates and proponents at a public hearing and continued listening to more end-of-life care experts such as Dr. Marcia Angell and people who are dying of terminal illnesses and want more end-of-life options like Ben Underhill.
This morning, the Human Services Committee began their work in earnest to determine whether they wanted to keep the Senate version of the bill or focus on bill language which would include extensive safeguards such as the ones found in the Oregon and Washington Death with Dignity Acts. They decided to focus on bill language with safeguards modeled on the Oregon law.
The bill still has a long road ahead of it; check back often for the latest news. You can also catch up on videos and audio files of the recent testimony in Vermont through Patient Choices Vermont’s website.
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