It was a packed Statehouse filled with emotional pleas and personal stories Tuesday night. Hundreds gathered in Montpelier to voice their opinions on the proposed Death with Dignity Act, or what opponents call Physician-Assisted Suicide.
"It is a sad day in Vermont when our lawyers are asking health care professionals to help human beings to die rather than extending compassionate and respectful care to ease pain and suffering," said Lynn Caulfield, a Dummerston resident and registered nurse.
Judy Murphy still mourns the loss of her friend. Who she says starved herself to death. She was terminally ill and suffered for months.
"Not everyone would make that choice to die. But many, including myself, would have great comfort in knowing that that option is possible," said Murphy.
Several opposed to the bill worry that if passed, the definition of suicide could be lost, Guy Page from Barre who asked his son, who has struggled with suicidal thoughts for years, about his view of the bill.
"His response shocked me. Shaking with anger and fear he said 'What hypocrites. Everyday my teachers tell me that killing myself is never an option. But here they are saying that suicide is 'okay'," said Page.
Supporters, like Melinda Moulton of Huntington, argue the decision to keep living lies with the patient alone. "Do we as people really have the right do deny another human being the legal means to end their life if they so choose?" asked Moulton.
Others worry that a wrong diagnosis could end a life too soon. Three doctors told Erika Riel she was going to die. But a fourth doctor in Massachusetts told her she would live to be 80. "The doctors in Vermont made mistakes. They gave me a mistaken diagnosis," said Riel, "if it was that easy for me to get a terminal diagnosis, how many other people are getting wrong diagnoses?"
The committee on health and welfare is planning four days of hearings. A vote could happen Friday. It would still have to pass both the house and senate before arriving on the Governers desk for a signature.
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