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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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Dr. Ira Byock, professor at Dartmouth University’s Geisel School of Medicine, former head of Dartmouth Hospital’s palliative care department, and currently chief medical officer of the Providence Institute for Human Caring of Providence Health and Services, has been debating Compassion and Choices’ Barbara Coombs Lee on various radio and tv shows during the period of intense attention that has followed  the release of Compassion and Choices’ ad promoting its Brittany Maynard Fund.  The criticism of him has been intense and uncivil, culminating in a post by Ms. Maynard on the website of the Diane Rehm Show asking him to “quit talking about me”.  Did Ms. Maynard not realize that going public with what could have been a private decision and using the publicity to promote the extension of assisted suicide to states beyond the three in which it is legal would open up a public debate?  Public is public.  Did she expect that sympathy for her tragic situation would silence the voices of those like Dr. Byock, who, after long experience working with terminally ill patients and long consideration  of the ramifications of what she is promoting__making assistance in suicide a matter of public policy__, have arrived at the conclusion that this is very dangerous for far more people than it could ever help?

Legal assisted suicide is literally mortally dangerous for people like Randy Stroup and Barbara Wagner, who wanted life prolonging care but received letters of denial from the Oregon version of Medicaid in which assisted suicide was offered as an alternative (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=5517492).  It is dangerous for elderly and disabled people who are already abused in large numbers and who are left completely unprotected from coercion or even homicide by the failure of every existing or proposed assisted suicide law to require disinterested witnesses at the time the lethal dose is ingested.  It is dangerous for people who are assisted in suicide after having been told that they will live only a short time but who, like the young woman in the article linked here, might have lived much longer and been able to do many more things (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/mom-stuns-doctors-beating-deadliest-brain-cancer/story?id=18135106).  It is dangerous for depressed and suggestible people, many of them young, among whom suicide coverage in the media, such as that surrounding the Maynard story and that contained in the annual reports in Washington and Oregon, has been shown to lead to clusters of copycat suicides (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/05/01/newspaper-suicide-clusters/8573239/) in an effect known as suicide contagion.  It is dangerous for doctors whose whole concept of their role, as healers when they can be and carers when they can’t,  but never as killers, will be changed by assisted suicide in ways that are impossible to predict but that Dr. Byock finds very disturbing, particularly in the context of a culture obsessed with cutting medical costs.

Here is the link to the  statement issued October 24th, 2014 by the groups Not Dead Yet and Second Thoughts:


Are we being repetitive?  Yes.  Brittany Maynard’s planned suicide has unleashed a cacophony of voices in opposition to assisted suicide, and we are grateful for the opportunity to give some of those voices a forum here.  Read this commentary by  Nancy Valko, RN, on the Witherspoon Institute’s blog, Public Discourse, for another view of the dangers inherent in assisted suicide: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2014/10/13979/.

An excerpt: “Many of us have had at least fleeting thoughts of suicide in a time of crisis. Imagine how we would feel if we confided this to a close friend or a relative, who replied, ‘You’re right. I can’t see any other way out either.’ Would we consider this reply as compassionate, or desperately discouraging? The terminally ill or disabled person is no less vulnerable than the rest of us in this respect. And to think that an entire society, through its laws, can give such a response—to you, and to anyone with a similar health condition—may be the ultimate form of suffering.”

In the light of how people are portraying courage in confronting the end of life these days, here’s what the real thing looks like.

Sgt. Jason Allen, a Rutland VT policeman, died at 35 last week, of cancer.  He had come to the sheriff’s department in 2002 and apparently became a friend, role model, and mentor to everybody he met, even the people he arrested.  Until the very end, despite his increasing weakness, he continued to volunteer two or three days a week at the Open Door Mission, cooking and serving meals to homeless people.  This, folks, is death with dignity.

“Days before his death, the 35-year-old sat cheerily perched on a stool, his young daughter by his side, as he served meals to the homeless. Although his body was betraying him, his contagious smile never wavered and his upbeat spirit never faltered”

Note that he did not let the disability that comes as the body breaks down stop him for living for others.  When he became unable to stand and serve, he sat and served.  When he could not sit, he received all who came to have a last word with him as he lay in his hospital bed.

Read more here: http://rutlandherald.com/article/20141021/THISJUSTIN/310219999.


Think there isn’t a slippery slope? We are in the first stages of a cultural move toward acceptance of euthanasia, driven by the slick PR efforts of Compassion and Choices and others of their ilk. This piece by Wesley Smith on First Things deftly summarizes how attitudes have changed in just 20 years:


This article, by Marilyn Golden, Senior Policy Analyst of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, appeared on CNN October 14, 2014.

Golden writes: “At less than $300, assisted suicide is, to put it bluntly, the cheapest treatment for a terminal illness. This means that in places where assisted suicide is legal, coercion is not even necessary. If life-sustaining expensive treatment is denied or even merely delayed, patients will be steered toward assisted suicide, where it is legal.”  Furthermore, “No safeguards have ever been enacted or proposed that can properly prevent this outcome, one that can never be undone.”  With regard to so-called safeguards in existing laws , she asserts that “in practical terms, they provide no protection”, citing as an example  the case of Michael Freeland of Oregon, whose guns, but not his suicide drugs, were taken away from him after he was hospitalized with an outbreak of the depression from which he had suffered for many years.

True Dignity agrees with her that no imaginable benefit is worth the enormous risks legal assisted suicide presents to people made vulnerable by age, disability, or mental or physical illness.

Read the article here: http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/13/opinion/golden-assisted-suicide/


Written by a Compassion and Choices member whose mother committed suicide,  this article is right on in pointing out the hypocrisy (practiced every day by Compassion and Choices) of trumpeting autonomy while telling the old and people with disabilities that their lives are not worth living and their medical care not worth paying for.  It’s well worth reading, even though we at True Dignity disagree strongly with the author’s choice of affiliation and with her assertion that people should not interfere with a person who  expresses a wish to die even to tell the person you’ll miss him or her and you’d rather he or she stayed around.

The author writes that her mother’s suicide was hard for her to accept and that she has promised her children that she will not commit suicide.  Ezekiel Emanuel writes that his children are appalled at his proclaimed intention to die at age 75.  If all families were like theirs, if our society were not, as the author writes, “a cutthroat capitalist culture grappling with its own decline”, perhaps assisted suicide would not be as dangerous as it is.  It would, however, still be very dangerous, because minds change, as this article points out, and sometimes that change happens after a decision has been communicated and the individual who has made it can no longer speak for him or herself; people who are rescued after suicide attempts inevitably say they changed their minds after jumping off that bridge, and this author omits the fact that the New York Times article she cites describes how Brooke Hopkins thanked his wife every time she had his life support turned back on after he had said he wanted it cut off.  But not all families are like the author’s or Emanuel’s, and a day came when even Brooke Hopkins’ wife did not turn the support back on and allowed him to die.  We do live in a cutthroat, capitalist culture.

That’s why we need to prevent the spread of assisted suicide and euthanasia and repeal the laws that have made them available in a few places.  Perhaps  Compassion and Choices will one day be persuaded by its members whose eyes are being opened by what they read and see in the media to  join us in the fight to make that happen.  Then the autonomy they want will be real, not a sham.



On the heels of seemingly relentless media hype over a propaganda piece circulating from the pro-assisted-suicide group Compassion and Choices (formerly the Hemlock Society), USA Today has published a story about the rise in suicides in the United States and the appalling lack of a unified effort to stop it.

We objected strongly to the exploitation by Compassion and Choices of Brittany Maynard, a young woman with a tragic diagnosis, whose plan to use Oregon’s assisted suicide law to end her own life has been featured in a slick video that promotes a romanticized version of suicide. Brittany’s tragic situation will only be compounded if her highly publicized plans contribute to a suicide contagion among young, depressed and impressionable teenagers and young adults. While Maynard says what she plans to do under Oregon Law is not “suicide,” many others who suffer from mental or other serious illnesses may not make the same distinctions she does. There has been a steady increase in the non-assisted suicide rate in Oregon since 2000 that we believe correlates to the acceptance of doctor-assisted suicide there.  One might wonder why States like Oregon and Vermont have wasted so much energy embracing something that is widely viewed as a public health crisis everywhere else.

In a hopeful note, the USA Today article highlights another situation that contrasts starkly with Brittany Maynard’s. Army Capt. Justin Fitch, 32, has been working tirelessly for the past several years to help prevent others from committing suicide, after he himself nearly succumbed to depression while serving in Afghanistan seven years ago. Fitch received a terminal diagnosis of colon cancer just 2 years ago, and is said to be in his last months of life. Despite this, “Fitch consulted his wife, Samantha Wolk, and reflected on the 22 veteran suicides occurring each day. He chose to devote his remaining time to prevent others from committing suicide. ‘I’ve always wanted to focus on trying to leave the world a better place,’ he says.”

Read the entire article here: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/longform/news/nation/2014/10/09/suicide-mental-health-prevention-research/15276353/

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