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Vermont House approves physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill

The Vermont House of Representatives [official website] on Monday approved a bill [S 77, PDF] that would allow a consulting physician to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a terminally ill individual who meets certain criteria. For the first three years after its passage, the legislation will model Oregon's Death with Dignity Act [official materials] by including safeguards [AP report] which require, among other things, that the patient be competent and assert on three separate occasions the desire to receive a lethal dose of medication. A second doctor must also confirm that the patient has six months or fewer to live. The bill will next go before Governor Peter Shumlin [official website], who has previously expressed his support [statement]:

I understand the deep convictions held by Vermonters on all sides of this extraordinarily personal issue. But I also know how important it is for those who face terminal illness and tremendous pain to have this choice, in conjunction with their physicians and loved ones, in the final days of their lives.
If the bill is signed, Vermont will become the fourth state permitting physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to certain terminally ill patients.

In November 2008 Washington voters approved a ballot initiative [JURIST report] allowing competent, terminally ill adults to obtain lethal prescriptions. Washington's measure was also modeled after Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, enacted in 1997 and upheld [JURIST report] by the US Supreme Court in 2006. In 2010 Montana became the third state to allow [JURIST report] physician aid in dying.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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