The Dangers of “Normalizing & Glamorizing” Vermont’s Assisted Suicide Law

By Vermont Right to Life

It is important to understand that proponents of assisted suicide want to normalize assisted- suicide and promote use of a lethal dose as the end-of-life option. Just weeks after passage of the law, assisted suicide proponents referred to Act 39 as “Vermont’s New Normal” referring to assisted suicide as just another end of life care option–even before anyone had used the law!

Today, six Vermont pharmacies will fill the lethal prescription and can legally mail it to a patient upon request. Also, Vermont Right to Life Committee (VRLC) has learned of Vermont families who gather loved ones together for the “final goodbye” and then share details of the “passing” with neighbors and friends. It is conceivable that these stories are sending the wrong message to young people who may begin to believe that suicide is acceptable.

When the legislation was under consideration in 2013, testimony was provided to the committees of jurisdiction that “glamorizing and normalizing” suicide could lead to an increase in the number of general population suicide – including teen suicide. Those testimonies were rejected by proponents. Yet the Vermont suicide rate among young people as well as the general population is on the steady rise and a case could be made that it coincides with more widespread use of assisted suicide by lethal dose.*

A further danger is that once a person requests assisted suicide, the law presumes that everyone—the doctor, the suicide facilitator, family members, hospital workers—is acting with the purest of intentions.

According to Life Legal Defense Foundation, here are some ways assisted suicide laws are dangerous:

  • “Unlike other suicides, law enforcement will not investigate an assisted suicide to determine the cause of death or whether the person was coerced or forced. The underlying disease —not suicide—is listed as the cause of death, which means doctors and coroners have to lie on the person’s death certificate.
  • If a doctor was negligent in making the initial diagnosis or prognosis, no one will know because all records will state that the person died of the alleged disease.
  • An “interested” witness—someone who will benefit financially from the person’s death—can sign off on the suicide drug request.
  • Any doctor or osteopath can write the prescription. No prior doctor-patient relationship with the person seeking suicide drugs is required.
  • No mental health evaluation is required, even though the majority of people who receive a terminal diagnosis suffer from depression.
  • Someone else can pick up the lethal drugs from the pharmacy. (In Vermont, the pharmacy can mail you the drugs.)
  • In short, assisted suicide laws are designed to facilitate the perfect crime.”

*Editor’s note: Parents need to be aware of the possibility of suicide contagion as word inevitably spreads in small communities about those who decide to end their lives under Act 39. While those who have a terminal diagnosis may believe they are “dying anyway” there is every possibility that they are sending a message to young people that when life gets difficult, it is okay to end it.