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Vermont third state to legalize assisted suicide comment (0)

May 30, 2013

Montpelier, Vt. — Vermont became the third state in the country to enact physician-assisted suicide when Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, signed legislation May 20. 

It joins Oregon and Washington as the only states to permit terminally ill citizens to take their own lives by using lethal drug doses prescribed by doctors.

The New England state, however, is the first to legalize assisted suicide through the legislature. Oregon and Washington both approved the practice in voter initiatives.

The new law means Vermont residents with terminal illnesses “at the end of their lives now have control over their own destinies,” Shumlin said on Twitter.

Opponents of assisted suicide warned the measure threatens the freedom and lives of defenseless people. They said Vermont’s safeguards against abuse are even weaker than those in Oregon’s law, the first one to gain approval.

The law “provides incentives for physicians and even family members to pressure vulnerable people into dying for the convenience of others,” said Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life.

Oregon reported a record 77 assisted suicides in 2012. 

Since the law was enacted in 1997, there have been 673 assisted suicides recorded, according to the Oregon Public Health Division.

Washington reported 70 assisted suicides after taking lethal drugs in 2011, the most recent year for which statistics are available. A total of 157 assisted suicides have been reported in the state since legalization. 

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