Opponents warn of unintended consequences

Lynn Caulfield of Dummerston said it’s a “sad day in Vermont” when lawmakers “are asking health care professionals to help human beings die, rather than extending compassionate care … to ease pain and suffering.”

A nurse herself, Caulfield said it won’t be pain that drives patients’ decisions, but a fear of being a burden to their families.

“None of the dying faces I have cared for have been in excruciating pain,” Caulfield said. “They have exited with grace and peace.”

Julia Roberts, a licensed mental health counselor, said she’s had to talk “individuals in their most hopeless” moments out of suicide. By legalizing suicide, Roberts said, lawmakers risk undermining the societal values that often prevent troubled teens from going through with it.

“You remove for some the one thing that would have prevented them from following through with suicidal thoughts,” she said. “Removing deterrents to suicide can only increase suicide.”

Peter Anderson, of Jericho, said the school shooting tragedy in Newtown, Conn., in December should prompt some soul-searching.

“What makes a young man in Connecticut kill … 20 defenseless children… As a nation, we’re wrestling with this question,” Anderson said. “I would suggest part of the answer is to be found in the messages our culture sends about violence, death and suicide, and whether or not human life is to be valued and protected.”

Anderson said lawmakers may be well-intentioned, but that unintended consequences “will be very subtle at fist, not so subtle down the road.”

“Attitudes about the weak, elderly and infirm will begin to change,” he said.