Daniel Doherty

Here’s a significant and little-known news item from yesterday that unsurprisingly flew under the radar: Vermont became the third U.S. state -- and the first via the legislative process -- to legalize physician-assisted suicide. Life News has the details:

With Governor Peter Shumlin’s signature on a bill the state legislature approved, Vermont [yesterday] becomes the third state after Oregon and Washington to legalize assisted suicide.

Shumlin signed a bill [yesterday] legalizing physician-assisted suicide for patients deemed to have a “terminal condition.” The move immediately drew opposition from leading pro-life groups.

As it should. Catherine Glenn Foster, litigation counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom and a Townhall columnist, explained some of the problems with the bill mere hours before the initiative passed the state legislature:

Defenders of the bill contend that there is no risk of its misuse because it applies only to a person with a “terminal illness.” Yet we have seen the definition of “terminal illness” expanded “broad enough to include an 18-year-old who is insulin dependent or dependent on kidney dialysis, or a young adult with stable HIV/AIDS. Each of these patients could live for decades with appropriate medical treatment.”

And defenders say that because the bill is only for a person who has the capacity to choose life or death, its provisions will be difficult to abuse.

In saying this, they miss the fact that the person killing himself or herself takes “prescribed medication,” which necessitates the involvement of a second party—a doctor. That opens the door for people, particularly those who depend on others in some way and are most in need of care and protection, to be influenced toward death, whether by an unscrupulous physician or a well-intentioned but coercive family member.

In other words, it’s not uncommon for “terminal” patients to feel persuaded -- or perhaps even coerced -- into taking life-ending drugs. Why? Because they’ve determined that their own lives have become, well, a source of financial distress and/or inconvenience to those whom are closest to them. How sad. It’s no surprise, then, that the American Medical Association is staunchly opposed to such practices, which obviously undermine the sanctity and dignity of human life. Back to the Life News article:

The American Medical Association has also remained firm in its opposition to physician-assisted suicide. Regarding the issue, the AMA states, “Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”

And yet now this newly passed “health care” law is perhaps on Vermont’s statute books forever. Splendid. Of course, partisans on both sides of the aisle can debate the merits of physician-assisted suicide, and whether or not it is morally defensible (which I don’t believe it is), but there is absolutely no denying the fact that this loosely-worded law is in many respects deeply flawed. And, as a result, I suspect it will have devastating consequences -- not only for patients themselves who ingest these lethal and toxic substances, but for their families and loved ones as well.


Daniel Doherty

Daniel Doherty is Townhall's Deputy News Editor. Follow him on Twitter @danpdoherty.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography