Defeating Doctor-Prescribed Death in Vermont

By Dave Andrusko

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin

Vermont would appear to be ideal venue for those pushing doctor-prescribed death. The state is arguably the most liberal in the country and, worse, the 2010 elections brought in an influx of pro-suicide lawmakers and hundreds of thousands dollars from out-of-state euthanasia groups. 

In addition during his successful gubernatorial campaign, Peter Shumlin (D) repeatedly vowed that, if elected, to pass a physician-assisted suicide bill. For good measure Shumlin (endorsed by the pro-euthanasia organization in Vermont) added he would have the bill on his desk by March of 2011.

Those huge advantages notwithstanding, legislation to legalize assisted suicide failed to pass in either the House or Senate in 2011 and 2012, an incredible tribute to a coalition of organizations which included the Vermont Right to Life Committee, Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, and untold numbers of pastors, priests, deacons and others sponsored talks against DPD all over the state to educate the public about the dangers of legalizing assisted-suicide.

The final defeat—at least for this session—occurred last Thursday. As NRL News Today reported at the time, in a last ditch effort proponents attached doctor-prescribed suicide legislation to H. 157–a bill to ban minors from using tanning booths!  However, the state Senate voted 18 to 11 to reject the measure. And while some of the debate focused on procedure and rules, suicide proponents made their case passionately and encouraged fellow Senators to join them in passing it.

Without getting into the kind of detail that would aid the pro-Doctor-Prescribed Death forces, how did the coalition prevail?

For starters, it WAS a coalition of forces who opposed the law for many different reasons. The stereotypes that proponents always trot out were trotted out again but with limited success.

On April 17, 2011 the state’s largest newspaper, the Burlington Free Press, editorialized AGAINST the bill and referred to the legislation as DOCTOR-PRESCRIBED DEATH.

There were a host of educational initiatives undertaken which warned against the dangers of doctor-prescribed death. Proponents were not given free rein to shape public opinion by running the usual stories unchallenged.

When advocates ran “town hall meetings” across the state to promote the bill, opponents turned out at each location in numbers higher than the proponents—in some cases, many multiples greater. There was massive grassroots opposition to the bill.

According to local opponents, there were many other reasons, including top-flight people working at the capitol, and legislators who knew the bill inside and out and were able to outdebate proponents hands-down.

Congratulations! 

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