An end-of-life bill that had been dismantled on the Senate floor earlier this year has been pieced back together in the House, where the judiciary committee this afternoon approved legislation that would allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication to terminally ill patients.
The Oregon-style “death with dignity” bill heads to the House floor next Tuesday, where it to have the votes needed to pass the full body. The legislation will then head back over to the Senate floor.
Supporters are hoping for better luck there this time around than they had in February, when a 21-page bill was scrapped on the Senate floor in favor of a three-paragraph provision that essentially indemnifies doctors for knowingly supplying suffering patients with doses of pharmaceuticals sufficient to end their lives.
Sen. Peter Galbraith, the Windham County Democrat who authored the amendment, said the language satisfied the desires of people seeking control over end-of-life decisions without creating a state-sanctioned process by which physicians can abet the hastening of death.
Galbraith’s amendment passed, thanks in part to votes from senators opposed to any kind of end-of-life bill passing this year. But the original bill has been restored in the House, where lawmakers said the Galbraith amendment opened the door to abuse by eliminating the safeguards in the original bill.
Those safeguards, according to Rep. Ann Pugh, chairwoman of the House Committee on Human Services, “ensure people are competent and capable and at the end of their lives, and that they’re not under duress.”
“And it brings a practice that many say is happening already into an open and transparent process,” Pugh said.
While the bill will almost certainly win approval on the House floor next week, its path through the Senate isn’t so clear. For a more in-depth look at the political and procedural hurdles awaiting the legislation, check out Sunday’s editions of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald.