Dear Supporter of Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare,
Another member of the VAEH Advisory Council and I were on a conference call yesterday with several folks from around the US who are involved in the political struggle to encourage good palliative care and oppose legalization of physician-assisted suicide. It was very encouraging to hear that the well-funded efforts of the “Death With Dignity” proponents have met with repeated and consistent defeats. It is bewildering and frustrating, however, that such “DWD” defeats do not make the news. I guess it is only newsworthy if the status quo is about to be changed, but if the 2,500 year tradition that physicians do not help patients take their own lives is upheld, this is just a ho-hum. So that you might also be encouraged, and might tell your neighbors and legislators, here is a brief recap:
Hawaii – PAS bill died in committee
Vermont – PAS bill came to a vote in the House Human Services Committee and failed to achieve a majority. PAS proponents claimed a “victory” because it was brought to a vote (talk about spin-doctoring!). This very important legislative failure didn’t make the news, and didn’t even make it into the VT press’ year-end summmary of “wins and losses”, to say nothing about the national news.
California – PAS bill came to a committee vote, and it was known that 2 members supported it, 2 opposed, and there was 1 unknown (Sen. Dunn). Senator Dunn asked an ethicist who supported the bill if he wasn’t concerned about expansion of the criteria; the expert said “no”. That caused the undecided senator to vote against it; he was very concerned and feared the proponents’ lack of concern. Thus PAS was defeated in committee in California. This is the 4th time assisted suicide initiatives have been defeated in California.
Britain – The British Medical Association had had a longstanding opposition to PAS, but in a narrow vote last year, they declined to take a stand against it; i.e., a change of official stance from opposition to neutrality. However, at their annual meeting in June of this year, they renewed their opposition by a significant 65% vote.
There are many websites where you can get current information on PAS. I would recommend the Nightingale Alliance at: http://www.nightingalealliance.org/index.php
We hope that these repeated defeats will show the PAS proponents that there is not the legislative will to make this sea-change in our society. It would be so nice if we could expend our efforts encouraging good palliative and hospice care instead of defending this longstanding societal norm. When you are talking with candidates for Vermont legislative seats, let them know about this recent history, ask them where they stand on this important issue, and let them know how important this issue is to you and your friends.
Enjoy your summer.
Bob Orr, president, VAEH