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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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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/

Did you know that many assisted suicides experience complications? Assisted suicide is wrongly marketed to the public as a flawless, peaceful escape from suffering. It can be a painful and scary death. It can include gasping, muscle spasms, nausea, vomiting, panic, confusion, failure to produce unconsciousness, waking from unconsciousness and a failure to cause death.

Just this week we saw a heartbreaking article about a woman named Brittany Maynard who has planned her assisted suicide death for November 1st. She is clearly terrified of a hard and painful death, and has been led to believe that assisted suicide is the best way out. However, Compassion & Choices (the leading advocates of assisted suicide) cannot guarantee Brittany the easy death they advertise.

The most comprehensive study on clinical problems with assisted suicide was conducted over a six year period in the Netherlands, where assisted suicide has been legal for many years. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Feb. 12, 2000. It found that over 18% of assisted suicides experienced problems severe enough to cause a doctor to step in and euthanize the patient. In at least 14% of assisted suicides the patient had problems with completion including waking up from coma, not becoming comatose, and patients not dying after becoming comatose. Another 7% of assisted suicides reported muscle spasms, extreme gasping for air, nausea and vomiting. (N Engl J Med 2000; 342:551-556).

The New England Journal of Medicine study insightfully mentions that all reporting doctors are practitioners and supporters of assisted suicide and euthanasia who are less likely to report unfavorable data. They “may have underestimated the number and seriousness of problems” causing complications to be underreported to an unknown degree.

Assisted suicide supporter, Dr. Sherwin Nuland from Yale University School of Medicine, refers to the above study in an editorial also printed in the New England Journal of Medicine:

This is information that will come as a shock to the many members of the public – including legislators and even some physicians – who have never considered that the procedures involved in physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia might sometimes add to the suffering they are meant to alleviate and might also preclude the tranquil death being sought.” (N Engl J Med 2000; 342:583-584).

Closer to home in Oregon, we’ve seen complications revealed though media outlets. Unfortunately, the state of Oregon doesn’t keep of track of, or investigate complications with assisted suicides so we only hear of some problems though the media. For example, 42-year-old Oregon man, David Pruiett, woke up three days after ingesting his lethal dose. In another case, Patrick Matheny’s brother-in-law admitted that he had to step in and complete the death when Patrick’s assisted suicide failed. Even assisted suicide advocate, Cynthia Barret, slipped up and discussed with the press a failed assisted suicide case where the patient was taken to a Portland ER and revived. (Idaho Mountain Express, Again With Feeling, The Pills Didn’t Kill, David Reinhard, 3/16/05).

Brittany Maynard has without a doubt been sold a false bill of goods. Death is always an unknown. It is a myth that we can completely control it. She has been promised a flawless death, better than any natural death could ever be, and she has been stripped of any possible hope. Her story has been shamelessly paraded all over the United States by Compassion & Choices. Compassion & Choices needs to learn how to show some real compassion. Embroiling a deathly sick young woman in a political fight is not compassionate. True compassion requires providing Brittany with quality care and supportive pain management, and shining light and love on every remaining day that she has, rather than assuming that her days are not worth living and exploiting her vulnerability for political gain.




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