In case you’ve not been following it, the push to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide has renewed it efforts, and is being pushed on two fronts at the same time: Hawaii and Vermont.
The Hawaii Death with Dignity Act (SB 803) was introduced on January 21, 2011 in the Hawaiian State Senate. A similar bill is expected to be introduced soon in the State House.
And with the inauguration of Vermont’s new governor, Peter Shumlin, the Green Mountain State is ripe to attack the issue as well. On the campaign trail last Fall, Governor Shumlin said that the legalization of assisted suicide would be “a priority” of his administration. Compassion and Choices (formerly the Hemlock Society, the nation’s foremost agitator for the legalization of assisted suicide) as well as the “Death With Dignity National Center” have publicly targeted Vermont as their next legislative effort:
“Newly sworn-in Gov. Peter Shumlin pledged support for right-to-die legislation during the 2010 campaign, and, as a state senator the year before, he cosponsored S.144, “An Act Relating to Patient Choice and Control at the End of Life.”
The Oregon-based Death With Dignity National Center has targeted Vermont as the most likely state for a legislative victory this year. In December, Peg Sandeen, the center’s executive director, flew from Portland to Montpelier for multiple meetings with lobbyists, grassroots activists, and Shumlin himself.
After the trip, Sandeen posted a confident prediction on the organization’s website: “Vermont will be the next state with a Death With Dignity law,” she wrote. “Every element is in place. Every player has a plan of action. Every commitment has been fulfilled. Everyone interested in Death With Dignity should turn their eyes toward Vermont.”
Efforts like this are not unusual – every year, the death-on-demand lobby makes efforts in at least 5 states to allow doctor-prescribed suicide. Most of the time they fail, but Vermont’s demographics make this year’s effort a little dicey. It’s going to be a tough fight.
Some people have said that, on this issue, America is similar to the way we were pre-Roe on abortion. The other side failed in their effort to get the Supreme Court to declare doctor-prescribed suicide a Constitutional right (Vacco v. Quill, 521 U.S. 793 (1997)), but they’re taking a state-by-state approach. Right now, it’s legal in Oregon, Washington and Montana.
If Vermont falls, they move on to more states, emboldened, and that much closer to being able to take it back to the SCOTUS and say that “the people have spoken”.