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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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Somehow we missed this good letter when it appeared in the Burlington Free Press last June.

How can anyone say the law is working well when it hasn’t been used at all and when we don’t know where the lethal drugs that were obtained but not ingested are?  Unlike some earlier versions of the bill that were defeated, Act 39 does not make any provisions at all for safe disposal of unused prescriptions.  Barbiturates, the drugs used in assisted suicide, are known as “downers” when they are sold on the streets.

Here’s the letter,  which also points to the likelihood of suicide contagion once assisted suicide deaths begin to be reported in Vermont.

We found the letter at http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/opinion/readers/letters/2014/06/22/assisted-suicide-debate-continues/11107163/.   Here it is.  Thank you,  Patricia Brooks.

Assisted suicide law not working well

One year later physician assisted suicide, Act 39, is not working well as evidenced by Mr. Dick Walters’ Comment and Debate piece (“Death-with-dignity law is working well”) in the June 4 Free Press.

He indicates in his piece that two terminally ill people requested lethal drugs, but “both passed away before ingesting the medication.” It would appear that Act 39 wasn’t necessary, couldn’t insure manner of death and just left unused lethal drugs out there somewhere.

Act 39 is “legislative malpractice” as described by Edward Mahoney from Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and needs to be repealed. The medical community must provide comprehensive palliative care to the terminally ill but not assisted suicide.

In a May 2013 New York Times article on the sharp rise in U.S. suicide rates, a Boston wife, who lost her 58 year old husband to suicide, said, “One suicide can inspire other people, unfortunately, to view suicide as an option.”

It is important for all of us to join the medical community in providing other loving options to the most vulnerable. Over and over again modern medicine has shown that most pain and suffering can be alleviated.

In the end the Judeo-Christian tradition of finding meaning in suffering may be the peace of mind that lethal drugs won’t provide. As Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, wrote in “Man’s Search for Meaning,” “if there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”


Hospice programs have begun to flourish, but unfortunately, along with the great good they can do, a dark side has emerged as well, according to a recent article http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/storyline/wp/2014/08/21/as-more-hospices-enroll-patients-who-arent-dying-questions-about-lethal-doses-arise/  in the Washington Post:

An excerpt: Betty Mathews, 76, a retiree from a Las Vegas casino, was diagnosed last year with colon cancer, received chemotherapy treatments and then was enrolled in a hospice in August 2013. The hospice sent a nurse every Friday, Mathews said.

“I kept telling them to give me a blood test to see if I still had cancer,” Mathews said “They gave me pain-killers but I never took anything. My hair was growing, I was gaining weight. But they wouldn’t give me the test. The hospice people kept coming every Friday. I thought I was going to die.”

Last month, nearly a year after enrolling in hospice, the agency finally did a blood test. It indicated that she did not have cancer, she said.

Had she known she was healthy, “I would have got up out of this bed and started living.”

Mathews’ case may be the exception, but it illustrates an important point: We must be very careful about relegating those with terminal diagnoses to a twilight zone of hopelessness, in which they find themselves simply waiting to die, and are thus deprived of what could be many good days, weeks, months and even years, of living.

Moreover, individual hospice programs and the doctors associated with them should be evaluated carefully before they are engaged. While the goal of “dying well” is most certainly commendable, we must not forget that “living well” is still the priority of good palliative care.

Proponents of legal assisted suicide are always talking about how we put our pets down rather than allow them to suffer.  Years ago, Stephen Drake put that argument to sleep for anyone who actually stops to think:


But there is another side to that story.  More and more people are buying wheelchairs and other equipment to allow elderly and handicapped dogs and cats, who would previously have been euthanized,  to live longer and better lives.

This blog post captures the bewilderment and hurt, in the face of this phenomenon, of people with disabilities, who hear, even from relatives, statements such as one of True Dignity’s board members (who has no disability but is elderly) recently heard from her own sister,  in defense of assisted suicide:  “I don’t want to be an invalid.”  http://www.davehingsburger.blogspot.ca/2014/08/a-dogs-valued-life-im-envious.html

We will write more at a future date about increasingly coercive pressure on the elderly and terminally ill and people with disabilities not to accept life-prolonging care.

What, we ask, is so bad, about being an invalid, at whatever time in life?  If it isn’t bad for a dog, why is it bad for a person?  What is becoming of us, that we don’t want to care for people as we do our beloved pets but just want them to die and spare us the cost and trouble, even if getting them out of the way means we aiding them in committing suicide.

This is so very sad.


The following article is  from the August 13, 2014 edition of The Washington Post: 


The article expresses concern that some of the posts about the death of actor Robin Williams might contribute to suicide contagion, a problem recognized by the US Centers for Disease Control, which issued guidelines for preventing it back in 1994 (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00031539.htm).  They caution the media, not to conceal suicides, but to avoid repetitive and continuous coverage, any statements that might glorify or romanticize suicide, and detailed descriptions of suicide methods.  Though the article is concerned primarily with a particular Tweet, the media, aided by public authorities, has violated all three proscriptions.

On yesterday’s True Dignity post, our board member Carrie wrote, “Once we legally endorse suicide for some reasons, we begin the conversation about endorsing it for any reason.”

The comments to the Post article reveal the truth of this statement.  They say a lot about how attitudes about suicide have changed since 1994, a time when there was no legal assisted suicide anywhere in the world.  Suicide was once universally lamented, and mourned.  No one doubted that every effort should be made to prevent it.  Many commenters to today’s article defend suicide as a rational and justifiable solution to depression.

In Vermont, now that assisted suicide is legal, doctors are required by law to tell a patient with a terminal condition that assisted suicide is a legally available option, whether or not he or she asks.  Linda Waite Simpson, the state representative of the pro-suicide advocacy group Compassion and Choices, recently told a reporter the group opposes suicide in cases of clinical depression but not when the person asking for it is experiencing what she called, “situational depression”, such as might be felt by someone who has received a terminal prognosis.  Today, the media is speculating on the factors in Robin Williams’ life situation that may have contributed to his suicide.  In the Netherlands and Belgium, where both assisted suicide and euthanasia are legal, we know that the suffering of depression has come over the years since legalization to be considered an adequate reason for a person to be assisted in suicide or euthanized.  What in the world could lead anyone to think that “safeguards” will be able to distinguish between clinical and situational depression in a way that will protect those whose depression is treatable, especially since the decision about whether to refer a patient for psychological evaluation is left to the discretion of the doctor receiving the request.  VT law takes no account of the fact that studies have shown even terminally ill people can be successfully treated for depression (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1291326/; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10541987.

Safeguards also fail to take into account suicide contagion. The law ignores the fact that statistics in Oregon show a rise in the suicide rate there that began just as the law was beginning to be implemented (3 years after its adoption) and that is consistent with suicide contagion.  The first victims of suicide contagion are always people suffering from depression.

Assisted suicide advocates are traveling across Vermont this summer, holding meetings to recruit doctors and patients for assisted suicide; they call it “education”.    Already they are unashamedly calling assisted suicide “a beautiful death” and encountering no opposition to that term except from True Dignity.  Already they are telling us that depression is not necessarily a disqualifier for assisted suicide.  Make no mistake about it.  Vermont is leading the way down the same slope that is seen in the comments to the Post article, a slope that is very slippery indeed.


Again today, my Facebook feed is filled with statements of mourning about yet another reported suicide of a well known person. People who knew Robin Williams only by his public persona are grieved by his untimely death, allegedly at his own hands. We can only imagine the heartbreak being experienced by his friends and family.

And again today, I ask: what is the distinction that allows some to embrace the physician-assisted suicide that is now legal in Vermont, and to abhor the suicide of a man suffering from the deepest pains of depression?

The “Death with Dignity” crowd will tell you that what they promote is different. They say it is not suicide but rather the “hastening” of an inevitable death.

But such distinctions matter not on a slippery slope.   And that is where we are now in Vermont.

Enabling the participation of doctors in the act of suicide promotes the delusion that swallowing a legally-prescribed toxic potion will provide for a more comfortable and compassionate exit than other methods of suicide we might imagine. But in reality, suicide by any method is a messy affair, and that which is assisted by a doctor, a purported healer, is more, not less, macabre.

We will all die eventually, but swallowing doctor-prescribed pills to “hasten” even a death that appears to be coming sooner rather than later belies hopelessness –the same hopelessness that underlies all suicide. Worse than that, legal physician-assisted suicide implies a public judgment about the relative value of some lives. Right now the line is drawn at “terminally ill with a diagnosis of 6 months to live and able to self-administer the pills.”  There is nothing preventing that line from being moved, and ample evidence that it will be moved if we remain on the slippery slope.

Once we legally endorse suicide for some reasons, we begin the conversation about endorsing it for any reason.

Do we mourn the suicide of Robin Williams today and rejoice in the doctor-assisted suicide of a terminally ill friend tomorrow?
I think not.

The Burlington Free Press today published the following excellent letter calling for the repeal of Act 39, the assisted suicide law.  Unfortunately there is also an article on the opinion page in favor of assisted suicide.  The link to the letter is

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/opinion/comment-debate/2014/07/30/repeal-physician-assisted-suicide-now/13334997/.  The link to the pro assisted article is http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/opinion/comment-debate/2014/07/30/people-end-life-choice/13335007/.

Comments are urgently needed on both articles, but especially on the pro article.  We need to see new names on these comments!  Please help!

Repeal physician-assisted suicide, now


I’m confused. Years ago we did away with the death penalty in Vermont (and rightly so) because we understood that despite the care and precision of our legal system, mistakes could be made and an innocent person could be wrongly put to death. The Legislature wasn’t willing to take that chance and so abolished the death penalty.

Now we have Act 39 (physician-assisted suicide), another law whose only purpose is to result in the death of one of our citizens. Yet this law, with shockingly few protections and no oversight at all by our judicial system, passed the Legislature.

What is the difference here? A wrongful death is a wrongful death is a wrongful death.

Does the Legislature honestly believe our health care system is so perfect that there is absolutely no chance for error? It doesn’t appear so since the Legislature is spending almost all their time trying to reform health care. That doesn’t leave me feeling confident that the system is working 100 percent perfectly.

So, if the death penalty is wrong because an innocent person might die, why does the Legislature magically believe that no one will ever wrongfully die under Act 39?

Physician-assisted suicide is just as bad a law as the death penalty, and the Legislature needs to repeal it.


Michele Morin lives in Burlington.


An Excellent Article about the American Civil Liberties Union’s campaign to get people to sue doctors, pharmacies and their workers, and medical facilities that refuse to provide assisted suicide services or referrals.


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