Thursday, March 17, 2011

Assisted Suicide politics in the United States - Four Victories - One to go.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Following the November 2010 elections, the assisted suicide lobby announced that they will legalize assisted suicide in at least one eastern US state and that their push will lead to several states legalizing assisted suicide within the next few years.

It appears that the goals of the suicide lobby are failing.

In Hawaii, Senator Ige sponsored bill SB 803 to legalize assisted suicide that was introduced on January 21. SB 803 was sent to the Senate Health Committee where on February 7, it received more than 4 hours of debate.

Senate Health committee chairman Josh Green had stated in an interview that he would be supporting the assisted suicide bill. When the vote on SB 803 was called, it was defeated by 4 to 0 in committee

Green stated that he was swayed by the testimony. The testimony from the disability community was particularly effective. Recent bills to legalize assisted suicide in Hawaii in 2005 and 2007 were also defeated.

In Montana, a December 31, 2009 court decision, did not legalize assisted suicide or create a right to assisted suicide, as the suicide lobby claims, but the court did create a defense of consent for doctors who are prosecuted for assisted suicide.

Montana faced two bills concerning assisted suicide. On February 10, Senator Anders Blewitt sponsored Bill SB 167. To his surprise SB 167 was defeated by a vote of 7 to 5 in the Montana Senate Judiciary Committee.

Several days later Senator Greg Hinkle's Bill SB 116, that would have protected Montana citizens from assisted suicide, was also defeated by 7 to 5 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. That means that after a huge campaign by the suicide lobby, assisted suicide remains illegal in Montana.

Last year the suicide lobby organized a significant push to gain public support for assisted suicide in Idaho. In response to the push by the suicide lobby, on February 4, Senator Russ Fulcher introduced Senate Bill SB 1070 to clean-up the criminal code to ensure that assisted suicide is completely illegal in Idaho.

On March 11, the Idaho Senate passed HB 1070 by a vote of 31 to 2.

New Hampshire
On February 2, New Hampshire bill HB 513, that was sponsored by Rep Charles Weed, to legalize assisted suicide was introduced. Those who follow the issue know that a similar bill to legalize assisted suicide was defeated in the New Hampshire legislature, in January 2010, by a vote of 242 to 113.

On February 28, bill HB 513 was debated in the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee. On March 15, HB 513 was defeated by a vote of 234 to 99 in the New Hampshire House.

This is a substantial victory. HB 513 is essentially an "Oregon Style" bill. This proves that when lawmakers have the opportunity to debate Oregon Style assisted suicide, the majority will reject it as unsafe.

Following the November election, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin promised that his government would legalize assisted suicide in their state. Shumlin, who had unsuccessfully sponsored assisted suicide bills in the past, received significant support from the suicide lobby during his campaign for Governor.

Bill H 274 was introduced on February 17 after more than a month of delays. Once again, H 274 is an "Oregon Style" assisted suicide bill. A similar bill, that was sponsored by Shumlin, was defeated by a vote of 82 to 63 in March 2007.

The Vermont legislators need to examine H 274 and defeat it because it is a Recipe for Elder Abuse and only creates an illusion of choice.

We look forward to the defeat of Vermont bill H 274.

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