Closed discussion begins on physician-assisted suicide

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(Host) The Vermont Medical Society is beginning a series of forums this week to give doctors a chance to discuss physician assisted suicide. This fall, the society will consider changes to its current policy on assisted suicide legislation. Lawmakers plan to consider a Death with Dignity bill when they convene in January.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) The Vermont Medical Society currently opposes any legislation dealing with assisted suicide. Paul Harrington is the executive vice president.

(Harrington) "Current policy is in opposition to legislation for or against physician assisted suicide. The society believes that this is fundamental to the physician-patient relationship and the legislative process really doesn’t lend itself to these highly personal discussions."

(Zind) That policy could change when the society takes up a resolution at its annual meeting in October. The resolution would remove the society’s opposition to legislation dealing with physician assisted suicide. Harrington says the seven forums being held by the society will give doctors a chance to learn both sides of the issue.

Doctors will hear from panels made up of supporters and opponents of the Death with Dignity legislation. Harrington says the forums are open to all physicians, but not to the public.

(Harrington) "The society felt that people would be more open with their feelings if there wasn’t a reporter in the room and I think that’s a fair assessment."

(Zind) Oregon is the only state currently with a law allowing physician assisted suicide. While the Vermont Medical Society’s forums are closed to the public, there will be a public forum to discuss assisted suicide and end of life issues on October 7 in Rutland.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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