The Vermont State Senate just passed a highly controversial bill legalizing physician-assisted suicide.
On Wednesday, the state Senators voted 17-13 in favor of the Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act, or S. 77. The bill will "allow, subject to appropriate safeguards, a mentally competent person diagnosed as having less than six months to live to request a prescription which, if taken, would hasten the dying process."
Physician-assisted suicide has been a controversial law gaining more support across the states. Currently, only two states — Oregon and Washington — have similar laws that have made physician-assisted suicide legal.
In a statement Thursday morning, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D-Vt.) addressed the difficulty of this issue, stating that he was “grateful” for the legislature’s work and consideration of both sides of the argument.
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“I understand the deep convictions held by Vermonters on all sides of this extraordinarily personal issue," Shumlin said. "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."
The bill now heads back to the House, which passed a similar bill before it was amended in the Senate. If the House votes again to approve the bill, Vermont will be the third state to allow physician-assisted suicide and the first to legalize it through legislation (the Oregon and Washington laws were passed as ballot measures).
"We are so pleased that legislators in Vermont have taken another bold step toward expanding end-of-life options for terminally ill Vermonters," said Peg Sandeen, executive director of the Death with Dignity National Center, in a statement Thursday.