It has not been widely published, but Vermont proponents of the law to allow doctor-prescribed suicide (Act 39) were almost defeated or soundly defeated in the November 2014 election.
• Incumbent Governor Peter Shumlin made passage of the Vermont law to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide one of his four top priorities when he ran for Governor in 2012. Act 39 was enacted in 2013 with his strong support. In his 2014 re-election race, Shumlin was expected to easily defeat his Republican opponent — a political unknown who got a late start, had little funding and had never run for public office. Shumlin won by just a few thousand votes and appears unlikely to remain as Chair of the Democrat Governors Association.
• Representative Linda Waite-Simpson led the fight in the House for passage of Act 39, publicly stating she was “doing this for my Dad who was a member of the Hemlock Society.” Compassion and Choices, the national leader pushing for legalization of euthanasia and doctor-prescribed suicide, hired Waite-Simpson as its Executive Director while she continued to keep her House seat. Her leadership on Act 39 was a campaign issue and Waite-Simpson came in 4th in a two-seat district.
• Representative Cindy Weed was the only member in her county to vote in favor of Act 39 and her vote was also a campaign issue. Weed lost 55% to 45% to an opponent of Act 39.
• The Patient Choices Vermont PAC attempted to defeat sitting Vermont Lt. Governor, Phil Scott, who broke two tie votes against Act 39 in the Senate. Scott delivered a crushing defeat to his opponent.
We are buoyed by these election results which send a strong signal that support for killing a patient rather than caring for them is not a winning issue with the public, even in a state like Vermont. And, it shouldn’t be. Public education is key to informing the public that we must maintain the goal of caring for a patient until his or her natural death, rather than allowing death to occur by lethal ingestion of drugs.