Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a bill on Monday that will allow doctors in his state to prescribe lethal doses of medicine to terminally ill patients seeking to end their lives. Vermont is the fourth state in the country to enact this sort of law. The “End of Life Choices” bill went into effect immediately.
“Vermonters who face terminal illness and are in excruciating pain at the end of their lives now have control over their destinies. This is the right thing to do,” said Shumlin.
The Vermont Health Department still has to develop regulations to help guide the new legislation. Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen estimates that doctors will write between 10 and 20 deadly prescriptions each year, but believes that not all those prescriptions will actually be used.
Chen is basing his estimate off of what happened when Oregon became the first state to legalize assisted suicide in 1997. Montana and Washington are the other states to legalize the practice, The Huffington Post reported.
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"It's used by a very small number, but it brings comfort to a much greater number knowing it's there," Chen said.
Before signing the bill, Shumlin tried to quell the fears of people who were protesting the new law.
"This bill does not compel anyone to do anything that they don't choose in sound mind to do," he said. "All it does is give those who are facing terminal illness, are facing excruciating pain, a choice in a very carefully regulated way."