After hours of discussion today, the Vermont Senate voted 17-13 to allow debate on the proposed Death with Dignity bill (Senate Bill 77) in spite of the Judiciary Committee’s recommendation to the contrary. Debate on the bill will take place tomorrow at 1:30 pm ET. You can listen to the proceedings live on Vermont Public Radio. If you can’t listen in, they’ll likely also blog about it live like they did today.
Senators who support and oppose the bill questioned the chairs of the two committees which heard testimony on the bill, Health and Human Services and the Judiciary, with most of the questions directed at Senator Claire Ayer, the chair of Health and Human Services. She deftly and politely responded to many opponents baseless claims and assertions and presented the facts available from 15 years of data on Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act.
One of my favorite sequences was when Senator Dick McCormack spoke about why this new law is necessary. From his impassioned speech: “Under present law, the person does not get to make their own decision. I don’t want other people’s bishops making that decision for me. I want to make my own decisions.”
The national conversation around Death with Dignity laws is undergoing a major shift right now. In addition to these exciting developments in Vermont, the New Jersey Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee recently heard testimony on a proposed bill and decided to move the bill to the full Assembly for debate, and the Montana Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a proposed law yesterday. We’ll continue to keep you up-to-date with these and other legislative actions.
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