True Dignity Vermont is a grassroots, independent, citizen-led initiative in opposition to assisted suicide in Vermont. Vermonters deserve true dignity and compassion at the end of life, not the abandonment of assisted suicide. Killing is not compassion, and True Dignity Vermont will work to ensure our end-of-life choices respect the dignity of all Vermont citizens.
As I was reading news articles I came across this from the AFP
“A Pew Research Center poll found that 84 percent of Americans support allowing a terminally ill adult patient to decide if they want to be kept alive.”
If you read it while reading the article, which subvertly promotes assisted suicide, you would think that 84% of Americans support Assisted Suicide. But if you read it closely, you will notice a CRUCIAL word. “Kept”.
Kept means to be sustained. And in this context, life to be sustained by medical science.
The question that 84% of Americans said yes to, was “Should a person have the right to refuse medical treatment?” And that we have no problems with.
But with that, we vehemently oppose the notion and mis-representation that 84% of Americans support assisted suicide. That was clearly not the question.
The Audio article includes snipits from our board members and Vermont Right to Life’s Mary Beerworth. It’s worth a listen!
Even before Vermont’s assisted suicide bill was signed into law yesterday, Boston radio station WBUR’s Commonhealth blog was asking the question: “Can We Go There to Die?” (http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2013/05/assisted-suicide-vermont).
The answer to that question, apparently, is yes. Here’s what the article says (we put the relevant line in boldface for emphasis:
I sent a query to Patient Choices Vermont, the group that spearheaded the state’s “end-of-life choices” bill, and heard back from Jessica Oski of Sirotkin & Necrason, a government relations firm that has represented Patient Choices Vermont for a decade. She writes:
1. To be qualified to use the assistance of the Vermont Patient Choice at End of Life Bill, a person must be “18 years of age or older, a resident of Vermont, and under the care of a physician.” There is no specific guidance under the law as to who qualifies as a Vermont resident.
2. In order for a physician to benefit from the immunity under the law the physician must be “licensed to practice medicine under 26 V.S.A chapter 23 or 33.” In other words, licensed in Vermont.
The way we read this, nothing in the law prohibits a person from coming to Vermont and getting the drugs after as few as the 18 days the law requires.
The requirement of a “bona-fide physician-patient relationship” is laughable, since the law requires nothing from the physician except a “treating or consulting” relationship” defined by his having “completed a full assessment of a patient’s medical history and current medical condition, including a personal physical examination”. There is no requirement that the patient’s primary care physician, who might really know him, be notified, much less consulted; in fact, though the law requires that the physician “refer” the patient to a second, consulting doctor, it does not actually require the patient to see that doctor. By contrast, the Oregon assisted suicide statute defines “attending physician” as “”…the physician who has primary responsibility for the care of the patient and treatment of the patient’s terminal disease” http://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Pages/ors.aspx. We know from Dr. Robert Bentz, an Oregon physician, that even this slightly more stringent definition of who can prescribe is abused to eliminate input from primary care physicians (http://www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org/2013/01/oregon-doctors-letter-to-medical-society.html).
The Massachusetts article asks whether a person could take his own willing doctor into VT to write the prescription, but that does seem to be prohibited by the requirement that the physician be licensed in Vermont.
Nothing in the law would stop patients from getting the drugs here and taking them back to their home states, so get ready, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, other states and possibly Canada and Mexico, anywhere that can be reached by land transportation that does not require handbags to undergo security checks.
Since the law requires no reporting of how many prescriptions are actually taken, we will never know what happens to these barbiturates.
True Dignity predicts that a few Vermont doctors will set up shop as suicide providers to write prescriptions for out of staters and Vermonters.
In Oregon, the majority of suicide prescriptions are written by physicians who are members of the advocacy group, Compassion and Choices. Compassion and Choices (http://www.pccef.org/DOWNLOADS/AssistedSuicidesbyCC2009report.pdf). George Eighmey, the retired director of Compassion and Choices of Oregon, was conspicuously present at yesterday’s signing ceremony. He told us he had flown in for the celebration.
Anyone who believes that the implementation of this law as been or will be an in-state project needs to think again. Oregon Compassion and Choices doctors will fly in just as Eighmey did time and again during the effort to pass legalization, only this time they will be showing doctors with Vermont licenses how to “do” the law.
After a small number of Vermont-licensed doctors have “learned” the process, they will function as “destination” physicians the way some Vermont churches have become wedding destinations for out of staters . The wedding couples come here because of Vermont’s beauty but perhaps also to avoid the marriage preparation a church nearer their home might require, which we see as an analogous to the counseling we hope a physician who knew the patient and was not an assisted suicide advocate would feel obligated to require of a anyone contemplating suicide. The patient will die without the help from his primary physician that might have saved his life, a life which, despite the terminal diagnosis, we know might have lasted for years.
This, we fear, is the future of Vermont under our new law. True Dignity Vermont will try its best to document the numbers and percentages of out-of-staters committing suicide here, if we can possibly locate the information under the veil of secrecy this terrible, crafted-on-the-fly law creates.
NECN.com (With a great quote from Mary Hahn Beerworth)
Opponents of the law fear it will open the floodgates to elder abuse and send a message that Vermont is a state that doesn’t value life.
“I think it’s a sad day,” said Mary Hahn Beerworth of the Vt. Right to Life Committee. “The only thing that’s historic today is that the Governor, the Speaker of the House, and [chair of the V.T. Senate Health and Welfare Committee] Senator Claire Ayer colluded to commit legislative malpractice.”
Another group opposing the legislation is True Dignity Vermont, which calls itself a watchdog organization. It has launched a toll-free hotline at 1-855-787-5455, asking Vermonters to report suspected cases of patients being pressured or influenced into taking lethal doses of drugs.
(NOTE: The below article from Reuters misidentifies Edward Mahoney as president of True Dignity VT. He is a member of Vermont Alliance for Ethical Health care. A group that we have worked with to fight against this horrible law. Also, we are run by a board. We’ve submitted a correction to Reuters.)
Opponents warn that measures allowing it may encourage people to take their own lives at the behest of potential heirs or because they fear they are imposing a burden on family.
True Dignity Vermont, a group that opposed the Vermont law, said it would work with a network of health care providers to help support alternatives to the terminally ill.
“We now have state-sanctioned suicide in Vermont,” said Edward Mahoney, president of the group, in a statement. “If the state won’t protect Vermonters, we will try.”
USA TODAY/ Burlington Free Press quotes two of our board members: Carolyn McMurray and Carrie Handy:
“We’re here as witnesses,” said opponent Carolyn McMurray of Arlington, Vt., part of a group called True Dignity Vermont that is starting a hotline and encouraging people to report abuses of the law. “We believe this bill was drafted hastily.”
Opponents argue that it is suicide.
Carrie Handy of St. Albans, Vt., a member of True Dignity, said her group is looking to help anyone who feels they or someone they know is being coerced into hastening their own deaths. That was among the leading concerns of opponents of the law.
“We would have liked to defeat the legislation,” said Handy. “Now that it’s been enacted we feel our role needs to be for the time being serving as a watchdog organization. We do feel this legislation puts vulnerable people at risk.”
Handy also said she sees the legislation as unnecessary. She said she watched her father-in-law and mother-in-law die and her mother is now in hospice care. In all of those situations, their pain was managed and the time they spent with family and friends at the end of life was relished, she said.
But those who oppose the law say it lacks strict oversight once a person fills the prescription. “We vigorously oppose this bill and we did everything in our power to keep it from being enacted,” said Carolyn McMurray with the group True Dignity Vermont.
McMurray says her group is transitioning from lobbyists to watch dogs now that the bill has become law. “We have setup a hotline to receive reports of abuse, either from people who are afraid themselves or who know somebody they think is being abused,” she said.
RT.com/Politico Article (recent though not from today carries a quote from another Board Member Gerald McMurray)
“This, in our opinion, is a terrible thing to have happen to our state… because it sort of sanctions suicide as a way of dealing with many end-of-life health care issues,” Gerald McMurray, a board member at True Dignity Vermont, told Politico. The organization describes itself as a citizen-led, grassroots initiative in opposition to assisted suicide in Vermont.
The Roman Catholic Dioceses of Burlington has also called on Vermont residents to urge the bill’s defeat before lawmakers voted on it Monday.
“Physician-assisted suicide will forever transform the role of physician from the one who preserves life to one who takes life,” the dioceses told the WSJ.
http://rt.com/usa/vermont-assited-suicide-bill-398/ (quotes from Politico and includes the Diocese of Burlington section whereas politico.com does not)
http://www.politico.com/story/2013/05/vermont-approves-assisted-suicide-legislation-91368.html (source for the RT article)
VT digger does a good job of balancing coverage between the proponents and opponents of this horrible law.
Opponents refocus their efforts
Scattered among the law’s jubilant supporters was a somewhat sparser crowd that’s also been omnipresent at the Statehouse during the debate over the bill. Opponents of the legislation, each identified by a round orange sticker, said they resented the event’s festive atmosphere given the risks that accompany the law.
Mary Hahn Beerworth, a member of Vermont Right to Life, said, “I think they have a nerve being here today, having a party and celebrating when they have just floated vulnerable Vermonters out there at serious risk at feeling pressured into asking and requesting for a lethal dose of medication and then being bullied into taking it.”
After today, supporters and opponents are both pivoting their attention away from the Legislature and toward providing the public with information.
True Dignity Vermont is taking a different tack. Carrie Handy, a board member for the anti-assisted suicide group, said they are refashioning the advocacy shop as a watchdog organization. They are launching a hotline for people to report abuse — opponents are concerned that vulnerable adults will be pressured to request a prescription — and they have plans to start a registry of “’safe’ doctors, nursing homes and other health care providers.”
“There are a couple of physicians who have come out strongly in favor of this legislation. Obviously they would not be on our registry. We hope to be able to get physicians on record saying they would not participate,” Handy said.
In an article that seemed heavily focused on the advocates’ presentation of the Assisted Suicide Bill, we had a few lines written for the opposition, including a quote from one of our board members: Edward Alonzo. We need to be constantly ready to explain to others that the law passed by the legislature is one that the majority of Vermonters did not want. A law that was pushed by ideologues who would not listen to their constituents, especially by the Senators from Burlington.
Excerpt from article:
But opponents said the law could be abused and vulnerable people, especially the elderly, could be forced to end their lives.
Some critics of the law attended the bill-signing and promised to seek its repeal.
“‘We need to be more of a caring, compassionate society, not one that says ‘take a pill, go away,’” said Edward Alonzo of Burlington. “People don’t have the best of intentions, always, with their family members,” he said.
Amongst the celebratory atmosphere of the bill signing, opponents of assisted suicide stood somber witness for the Vermonters who oppose this horrible bill.
Gov. Shumlin signed this piece of “legislative malpractice” today around 2:15.
Opponents spoke to numerous media outlets ranging from WAMC in Albany and the Associated Press. Answering questions about our grave concerns against assisted suicide and the extreme danger of this cobbled together bill.
One of the most often asked questions to opponents was “now what?” We will continue the fight, continue to build our grassroots support, prepare to revoke this legislation and provide information and resources for those who are in danger.
With our new Hotline 1-855-STP-KILL, email address email@example.com and our new website reporting form, we recommit ourselves to the fight and to gathering information for our next legislative session.
We are also planning on creating a collection of resources for the vulnerable and those concerned for their safety.