Vermont has joined two other states that have enacted laws permitting physician-assisted suicide. The Vermont statute, recently signed into law by the governor, permits a terminal patient’s doctor to prescribe a lethal dose of medication without fear of criminal prosecution, by carefully following procedures designed to provide objective evidence of the patient’s free choice in the matter. As is the case in other states that follow this practice, the patient decides whether or not to self-administer the fatal dose—there is no “mercy killing” by another person.
It’s a detailed and somewhat complicated 12-page statute, and I certainly can’t vouch for every part of it. But what I applaud is the obvious intention to honor an individual’s right to end his life, at least under the circumstances when that question most obviously arises.
Over the years, I’ve written on this issue (here and here, for instance), expressing disappointment that more states have not joined Oregon, the pioneer in this field (its “death with dignity” law dates from 1997). I’m glad to see that Vermont appears to have done the right thing, and I hope other states find the example inspiring. Progress continues to be impeded by opponents like Dr. Paul McHugh, whose op-ed in the Wall Street Journal laments the Vermont bill’s passage.