The Vermont Senate has rejected legislation that would allow terminally ill people to get a physician’s help in ending their own lives.
The legislation was defeated on a procedural vote. The bill – modeled after a law in Oregon – had been attached to a bill that prohibits minors from using tanning beds.
Bennington Senator Dick Sears chairs the Judiciary Committee, and he accused the backers of the bill of violating Senate rules.
"To hijack a bill out of committee is breaking the rules," Sears said. "If we want to continue to break the rules in this building there will be consequences for all of us.
But Windham Democrat Peter Galbraith said the bill deserved a vote, and that sometimes rules must be broken.
"They were written by men and women to serve our human purposes and when they no longer serve there purposes, when they effectively bottle up decisions on key issues, a handful of key issues, it is in my view appropriate, in fact even imperative, to adopt a different procedure," said Galbraith.
The emotional debate focused on both the unusual method to bring the issue to a vote, and the underlying issue of whether those at the end of life should be allowed to get help to hasten their death.
Windsor Democrat Dick McCormack acknowledged religious arguments against the bill.
"But it’s not the job of the Vermont Senate to decide theological debates. Those differences of belief and opinion will continue and ultimately will be decided by God. Our job is to decide what people’s rights are in Vermont," said McCormack.
But some senators who said they could have supported the underlying bill opposed the way it was brought to the floor. The Senate defeated the amendment on a vote of 18-11.