The Vermont lawmakers heard more than seven hours of testimony about Death with Dignity last week by both supporters and opponents. Hearings began with the the Senate Health and Welfare Committee members listening to testimony by supporters including former Governor Madeleine Kunin and Attorney General William Sorrell about why a Death with Dignity law should be enacted in the state. Later the Senate Health and Welfare Committee and Judiciary Committee held a joint public hearing to gather testimony from Vermonters. Between 200-300 people packed the largest room in the Statehouse, the House chamber, and around 80 people signed up to testify. The public hearing was strictly moderated to allow everyone a chance to speak.
The Vermont Senate Health and Welfare Committee endorsed the Death with Dignity bill to move forward today.
The bill will now be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. The Judiciary Committee will decide whether or not to allow the bill to move to the Senate floor for debate. According to news reports, the decision is expected to take place the week of February 11th.
Attempts to enact a right to die act in Vermont have been going on since 2007, but it appears 2013 may be the year it finally passes. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin made passage of the law a high priority and has enlisted the speaker of the house and president of the senate, both Democrats, to shepherd the bill through the legislative process.
(thanks to Melissa Barber – Death with Dignity National Center)