Vt. lawmakers hear debate over assisted suicide - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. lawmakers hear debate over assisted suicide

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Fresh talk Tuesday of an issue that has come up time and again in the Vermont Legislature, as the Senate's Health and Welfare Committee opened debate over end-of-life choices.

Vermont could become the third U.S. state to allow terminal patients in chronic pain and with signoff from doctors the option to take a lethal dose of pills. The bill doesn't have a name or number assigned to it yet, but is identical to a version that stalled in the judiciary committee last year and is expected to be a main focus this week at the Legislature.

After asking questions of legal staff, committee members heard from former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin and from Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell.

"It is the hardest question is about letting someone we love go, letting them make the decision that they wish to die," Kunin said.

"The option to be able to make that choice is a civil right," Sorrell said.

Most of those who attended the morning meeting support the legislation. But Edward Mahoney, a professor of religious studies at St. Michael's College in Colchester, says he's concerned by the potential measure.

"It sort of makes suicide or assisted suicide a medical act," Mahoney said.

"Patient choice is not a slippery slope to suicide, it is a carefully thought through question and decision with strong safeguards," Kunin said.

Members of the public offered legislators their opinions Tuesday evening.

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