Shumlin Reiterates His Prediction That Legislature Will Pass End-of-Life Bill

By Kirk Carapezza

Gov. Peter Shumlin is restating his prediction that the Legislature will pass a bill to let terminally ill patients with less than six months to live request drugs from their physicians to end their lives if they choose.

Tomorrow, the full Senate will take up the bill supporters call “death with dignity” and detractors call “physician-assisted death.”

Shumlin has long championed end-of-life choices, and he has predicted that lawmakers will pass a measure this session.

After Senate leadership blocked a similar bill last session, Shumlin sounds decidedly confident he’ll sign the bill into law this year. Shumlin insists he’s motivated largely by personal considerations, and he says his elderly parents would want the choice to take medication to end their lives.

“At some point, we’re all going to die and the question for my parents and I think other seniors is the comfort in knowing that if they’re in extraordinary pain – if they’ve been told that they have only 10 or 12 days to live – they want to be able to have the option of not living through that pain and that debilitating death,” Shumlin said.

If the bill passes the Senate and House, Vermont would be the first state in the nation to enact an end-of-life law through the legislative process.

The bill moves to the Senate floor Tuesday with a strong, unanimous recommendation from the Health and Welfare Committee, but with a negative recommendation from the Judiciary Committee.

The few senators who remain undecided say this is one of the most sensitive questions a lawmaker could face because it’s so personal.

If the bill passes, its fate is still unclear. It will come up for final approval on Thursday when there will be the possibility of more amendments.