Opponents of Vermont’s physician-assisted suicide law are calling on legislators and the governor to place a moratorium on the prescription of life-ending drugs.
Edward Mahoney, president of the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Health Care, said at a news conference Thursday that the law is poorly crafted and its supporters have not fully considered the ramifications of the law.
He raised several concerns about its implementation, including the lack of immunity for clinicians and pharmacists and the requirement that physicians notify terminally ill patients of the assisted-suicide option – whether or not the physician thinks it’s an ethical or a good care practice.
Mahoney and other opponents said the bill doesn’t have proper patient protections to ensure that people with disabilities or diminished capacity are not coerced into ending their lives, or to safeguard against the diversion of the drugs.
Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, who helped shepherd the bill into law last session, said the opponents’ concerns are a rehash of the points they raised before.
“I don’t hear anything new,” she said. “I think that we’ve settled these issues.”
In the eight months the law has been on the books, two Vermonters have filled prescriptions for terminal drugs, Ayer said, neither ended up using them to end their life.
Mahoney said his group’s concerns were not related to events that had transpired, but rather the potential for harm if the law remains in place.
Senate President John Campbell, D-Windsor, who voted against assisted suicide, said he did not think a moratorium was the answer.
“I think if changes need to be made, they should be made legislatively,” Campbell said.
Campbell said his opposition to assisted suicide stems from the way it alters the doctor-patient relationship, and he would support the law’s repeal if it comes up.
That won’t be until at least next session at least, because a bill can’t be repealed in the same biennium in which its passed.