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True Dignity Vermont is a grassroots, independent, citizen-led initiative in opposition to assisted suicide in Vermont. Vermonters deserve true dignity and compassion at the end of life, not the abandonment of assisted suicide. Killing is not compassion, and True Dignity Vermont will work to ensure our end-of-life choices respect the dignity of all Vermont citizens.

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A December 10, 2014 posting by True Dignity guest author W. Carol Cleigh showed how the practice of assisted suicide has expanded over the sixteen years since it was legalized in Oregon (http://www.truedignityvt.org/whats-going-oregon/).

The French journal LePoint recently interviewed Etienne Montero, dean of the law school at Belgium’s University of Namur and author of Rendezvous with Death: Ten Years of Legal Euthanasia in Belgium.  He spoke about the expansion of euthanasia in that country, both in numbers of people dying, and in the relaxation of the regulations in the law.

Here in Vermont, where five prescriptions have been written in the twenty months since legalization, but there has not been a single confirmed death, some may be tempted to believe that, since the law has not been used, it is not dangerous and doesn’t need revisiting. The Oregon experience and the Belgian experience should tell us something else, which is well summed up by Montero: Supply creates demand.

Reason tells us that legal doctor-assisted death starts out slowly but then grows and spreads. The facts in Belgium prove this out, just as do the facts in Oregon, if one looks below the hype.

We need to repeal the Vermont law before this can happen. Legislators in other states need to think carefully, examine the evidence, and reject attempts to use the Brittany Maynard death to sell them on the idea of legalizing assisted suicide.

Here’s the article, which can be read in French at http://www.lepoint.fr/societe/euthanasie-l-offre-cree-la-demande-15-01-2015-1896667_23.php.


Frank Van Den Bleeken, held for life for rape and murder, should have been euthanized on January 11. Judged not responsible for his actions, he demanded to die because of “unbearable” psychological suffering, according to the words of his lawyer, Jos Vander Velpen. A demand accepted by the Belgian ministry of Justice last September.

Because his doctor did an about face at the last moment, because the government has finally accepted his transfer into a psychiatric center, a transfer that he had been requesting in vain for years, this death has not in the end taken place. It was a close call. And, for the first time in this country that all Europe observes because it is the only one, with the Netherlands, to have legalized euthanasia in 2002, Belgian public opinion is questioning itself about a law of which the conditions of application have not ceased to be relaxed.

Interview with Etienne Montero, dean of the faculty of law at Namur:

Le Point: For the first time, the law authorizing euthanasia, in Belgium, is being criticized. One speaks, with the Ven Den Bleeken case, of “the death penalty” the other way round…

Etienne Montero: The death of Frank Van Den Bleeken did not take place, but in its wake, 15 other prisoners have already formulated a demand for lethal injection. And people have forgotten it, but in September 2012 a 48 year old psychiatric prisoner was well and truly euthanized…Our country has been condemned 14 times by the European Court of Human Rights because we maintain in prison, under conditions that do not correspond to their state, some people with psychiatric illnesses judged not responsible for their actions. They need treatment, they are accepted for euthanasia, and these limited cases reveal how the barriers imposed in 2002 have been jumped over one after the other.

The number of Euthanasias has grown?

In an exponential manner, yes. In a dozen years, it has passed from 199 to 1,454 deaths a year. And I am speaking only of the cases reported by the doctors to the commission of control, because the public powers admit that there is no way of knowing the number of euthanasias really practiced, without doubt much larger. Moreover, in November 2014, euthanasia was legally opened to minors, and this whatever their age.

How is the legality of legal injections checked?

By a commission that goes through the reports transmitted by the doctors. But it acts as a check afterwards, that is to say at a time when the people have already died, and the commission has at its disposition only the information which the doctor who did the injection wants to communicate. All is therefore biased. Moreover, in a dozen years, no dossier has been sent on to the legal authority (justice)…

One doctor, even a general doctor, can he decide by himself to accede to the demand of the patient?

It can be the family doctor, yes, but the law obliges him to ask for a second opinion. The problem is that, in order to facilitate the procedure, a network of doctors has been put in place__(Here he gives the initials or names of some networks that the translator could not identify or find online). It’s about doctors formed to practice euthanasia and to whom most times the appeal for a second opinion is made. Or there are some doctors won over to the cause of euthanasia, often members of ADMD_Association for the right to die with dignity. There again, the ethical check is biased.

You have studied attentively the reports rendered by the commission of control for a dozen years. What have you concluded about them?

The law says that, to gain access to euthanasia, it is necessary to be in a state of a grave and incurable pathology, and of unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved. But these two conditions are no longer interpreted today as they were in 2002. Today, for example, the commission admits cases of multiple pathologies. They are often of aged people who suffer, for example, from declining eyesight, from arthritis, from deafness, from renal insufficiency… Some of these pathologies, certainly incurable, are not grave, but it is accepted today that the collection of these pathologies due to old age justifies the demand and the cases of euthanasia of persons suffering only from the consequences of great age, if they are multiple.

And “unbearable suffering”, is it not also a criterion required to be evaluated?

One speaks especially of physical but also of psychological suffering. And there also, the interpretation of the law has evolved. In 2002, there was no question of euthanasia of the depressed, of the demented, of psychotics. Today, people among these (groups) are euthanized every year. Now, when euthanasia intrudes into psychiatry, it is disturbing, because psychiatry consists precisely in bringing back the élan of patients who have lost it.

It is not then indispensable, in order to gain access to euthanasia, to be well and truly at the end of life?

Not at all. More and more people are demanding death, and they are obtaining it, even when their death is not at all expected in a short time. By the way there has appeared now the astonishing notion of preventive euthanasia. It is applied to patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s who, still lucid, ask for the lethal injection before the advanced symptoms of the malady are manifest. It was applied to the case of the Verbessen brothers, deaf twins who had been diagnosed with glaucoma, who would have become blind over a long period, and who decided to be euthanized in 2012…One asks, and one obtains death not because one suffers, but because one is afraid of the idea of suffering…Countries who are considering a possible legalization ought to understand that supply creates demand. When euthanasia was authorized a dozen years ago in Belgium, it was presented as an ethical transgression, an exception reserved for extreme situations. A dozen years later, its field of application has been considerably extended.

Here is is: the latest assisted suicide bill in Connecticut.  Yesterday one was introduced in CA.

To all, get ready to fight, with civility, reason, and facts.


As the UK Parliament continues to debate legalizing assisted suicide, here’s a good article reminding us of what it seems should be obvious to everyone. Assisted suicide is not a private matter.  It affects a whole society in ways that should, but no longer do, appall everyone.

Suicide itself is known to be contagious.  When the social stigma surrounding it is eliminated by laws setting up a legal process of assistance for it, its extension becomes inevitable, including its extension to those whose care society finds too emotionally and financially expensive to be willing to sustain.

By the way, we at True Dignity think this not only should be, but actually is, obvious even to the proponents.   Barbara Coombs Lee is no longer ashamed to say that people with dementia should be eligible for euthanasia; we use the word because a person with dementia would not be capable of committing assisted suicide.  Coombs Lee also defends the denial of state insurance coverage of treatments patients and their doctors believe would help them.  In Belgium and the Netherlands, depression or situational unhappiness, such as that of the person euthanized because of dissatisfaction with a sex change operation, or just being “tired of life” are considered “unbearable and irremediable” suffering that qualifies one for euthanasia.

What these people really want is suicide or euthanasia on demand, without many questions; the few questions asked would be to protect the doctor, not the patient.  They want to eliminate people in the name of freedom, when they know as well as we do that people will die who could have been helped to live.  Again, they think help is too expensive, socially, emotionally, and financially.  Eliminating those who need care is just so easy, so logical, so cheap, cheap, cheap.


The NJ Senate could vote on the assisted suicide bill already passed by that state’s Assembly as early as January 13, 2015. We urge people__especially people from NJ, but anyone from any state who believes the spread of assisted suicide is dangerous public policy and a risk to everyone, everywhere__to contact each Senator, politely asking that he or she vote against S.382. Here, once again, is the contact information: http://noassistedsuicidenj.org/images/NJ%20Legislators.pdf.

Be brief. Be polite. Be reasonable. If you are from out of state, say you are calling because what the NJ legislature does will influence what other state legislatures do.  Give your reasons for opposing the legalization of assisted suicide.

Since our beginnings in January 2011, True Dignity Vermont has had a policy of not posting arguments against assisted suicide based on religious belief, refusing to give Compassion and Choices and its various state clones any excuses for the argument they bring up when they have no reasonable or evidence based argument to make: that opposition to assisted suicide is solely an attempt by the Christian right to impose its sectarian beliefs on others.

Some religious people do indeed make statements that we understand non-religious people would find offensive and that would certainly not move them, but others make reasonable arguments that we are getting tired of ignoring just because of their sources. We believe all reasonable voices are worthy of consideration.

It is in that spirit that we are linking to an article by Richard Doerflinger, who works as Associate Director of the Pro-Life Secretariat of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and is Public Policy Fellow of the Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame.

We post this article simply because it is the best concise summary of the arguments and evidence against assisted suicide we have seen recently. It can be very helpful as citizens decide what to say when they call the NJ Senators. Most of us have heard all of this before, but the article brings it together and also adds the, new to us, information that 50% of the people who used Oregon’s assisted suicide law last year were dependent on some kind of government provided insurance or had no insurance. 75% of those using the Washington law were similarly situated. Since the debate over Obamacare began in 2009 and 2010, we have heard nothing but calls for cost-cutting in these government insurance programs. In this social and economic context, how can anyone feel safe from the consequences of legal assisted suicide?

Doerflinger writes of the states that have passed assisted suicide bills: “By passing the bill, the government has selected a class of citizens it thinks are more in need of suicide assistance than suicide prevention. How enthusiastic will it be about paying for continued care for those holdouts who refuse this aid?”  The answer to this question seems obvious to those of us at True Dignity. It is not enthusiastic now. It will be less so when assisted suicide is available everywhere.

Here’s the link: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/01/14217/

Happy New Year to all our True Dignity friends!

One of the most impressive people we had the pleasure to meet in 2014 was Maggie Karner. You may remember Maggie from her heartfelt video message to Brittany Maynard, asking Brittany to reconsider her choice to commit assisted suicide. Maggie was diagnosed with the same glioblastoma multiforme brain cancer as Brittany Maynard. She was diagnosed last April. Her doctor has not given her a timeline or an “expiration date.” Her doctor, unlike Brittany Maynard’s, refuses to speculate on her because she is an individual, a unique human being.

Maggie is an ideal individual to speak on the Brittany Maynard story because she shared the same diagnosis as Brittany. However, when I heard her speak in November, she had an unexpected message.

“Don’t you ever let anyone tell you you can’t have an opinion about something because you haven’t experienced it,” she said. She discussed how society promotes the idea that we cannot “judge” someone with a different opinion unless we have experienced exactly what they have. “We are only allowed to have an opinion if we’ve walked in someone’s shoes,” she explained.

However in the case of assisted suicide and Brittany Maynard, Compassion and Choices has taken her case to the public and tried to apply it to all of us. “This affects all of society, and your voice matters,” Maggie said.

It is critical that we all speak out, and continue to speak out. Let’s resolve in 2015 to make it a priority to continue speaking out against the societal ill of assisted suicide.

If he had had enough votes to pass it, Senate President Stephen Sweeney would surely have called it to the floor yesterday, December 18. According to disability rights activist John Kelly, “The next scheduled voting session of the Senate is January 13, and if Sweeney has the votes by then, it will surely be posted. Additional voting sessions will be held on February 2nd and 24th; March 5th and 16th.”  We need to stay alert and be ready to respond at any time.

We can hope that our efforts and particularly the efforts of the disability rights community and numerous citizens of New Jersey raised doubts in the minds of some legislators who might have been inclined to follow their leadership or the emotional advertising of the Brittany Maynard case and vote for this.  Thanks to all who called or emailed.

Senator Sweeney has said he is waging an “educational campaign” to get senators to vote for this.  We need to counter it with our own educational campaign.

If you have not yet called or emailed, please please do so.  We at True Dignity know the other side is also registering its opinion, because one of the staff people who answered  a board member’s call interrupted her before she could speak more than two words, saying, “Death with Dignity?”  We cannot let C&C seem to have greater numbers than we do.

As always, the arguments you make should be civil, reasoned, not religious, and not focused on palliative care.

Religious reasons are as valid as any, but the opponents call us religious fanatics who are trying to impose our views on others.  Unfortunately, this tactic has been successful for them, especially in Washington state.  In Vermont, after our bishop gave excellent testimony, one state senator said he didn’t want anybody else’s bishop present at his deathbed!

Palliative care arguments, equally valid, are also turned against us by the proponents.  The same VT senator said after Dr. Ira Byock testified that he did not want him in charge of his end of life care; and the proponents say they agree with us that better palliative care is needed, but that assisted suicide should also be an option, not because it does not work but because some people are not willing to be dependent.  We say that these people need society to tell them it wants to care for them and they need not feel that they are a burden.  Offering assisted suicide sends exactly the opposite message.  If you are going to talk about palliative care, please make that final point.

Focusing on the dangers of error and abuse and the impossibility of eliminating them by so-called “safeguards” is best.

If you have already called or emailed, give the senators a break for a while.  We will let you know when to contact them again.  Again, if you have not made contact, it is good to interrupt Senator Sweeney’s campaign by doing it now.

Thanks to www.noassistedsuicidenj.org  for this alphabetical list of the New Jersey Senators, with each one’s phone number and email address.


Yesterday we stopped calling when we heard that the assisted suicide bill is not posted for debate and a vote on Thursday, December 18.  Since that time, however, we have heard that the bill was not posted for a vote in the lower house on the day the leadership suddenly called it up and the house passed it.  Not posting the vote could be a similar political ploy.

With that in mind, we need to continue our calls and emails today and even tonight.  The vote could take place any time, without warning.

Obviously the most important people are those from New Jersey, but everyone should call and email.  When the leadership of True Dignity was making calls yesterday, we found it useful to say right away that we were from out of state and that we were calling because what happens in New Jersey will have an effect far beyond that state.  We said that we are from Vermont, where assisted suicide is legal but has not been used.  We expressed our certainty that, if it spreads from state to state and becomes socially acceptable, it will be used, and that that is when the abuses and the errors will occur.

If you are told that the bill is not slated for a vote, don’t stop.  Say you want to make your concerns known anyway.  At the end, ask the person if he or she will make your concerns known to the senator.  That makes it harder for staff people to shield their senators.

Remember, always be respectful, and do not use religious arguments.  Otherwise your call may hurt rather than help.

Thank you for helping.




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