“History has shown us that, rather than empowering seriously ill individuals, legalizing physician-assisted suicide can result in societal pressure for them to end their lives,” said AUL’s Dr. Charmaine Yoest

Montpelier, VT (05-20-13) – Tragically, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill today legalizing physician-assisted suicide for patients deemed to have a “terminal condition.” Such legislation “lays the foundation for deadly acts disguised as ‘care,’” noted Americans United for Life President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest. “Physician-assisted suicide does not affirm the life or dignity of individuals facing serious illness or death.  Instead, it opens the door to abuses and dangers for extremely vulnerable individuals.”

“This legislation provides incentives for physicians and even family members to pressure vulnerable people into dying for the convenience of others,” she said.

AUL’s legal team noted that the law fails to include some of the most basic legal protections for those considering physician-assisted suicide.  A physician who has only examined a patient one time is permitted to prescribe life-ending drugs to the patient.  Further, the physician is not required to refer the patient for an evaluation by a psychiatrist to determine if the patient is depressed or being coerced to end his or her life.  The law also does not require witnesses to be present when the patient takes a life-ending medication, increasing the possibility that persons who may wish to hasten a patient’s death might be with the patient and pressure the patient to end his or her life or even administer the drugs themselves.

“America has prided itself in affirming the worth and dignity of the elderly and disabled,” observed Dr. Yoest. “This kind of law undermines the humanity of the vulnerable, encouraging a cost-analysis approach to life rather than affirming the humanity of the sufferer.”

For more on AUL’s life-affirming model legislation, check out Defending Life – the guidebook for model legislation.