When the Senate finally took up “death with dignity” Tuesday evening, it was to be the final chapter of a wrenching debate that has filled House and Senate galleries this year with Vermonters both for and against the end-of-life-choices bill.
But just as a 15-16 vote seemed to signal the death of “physician-assisted suicide,” yet another surprise twist materialized that will make this story last at least another day.
Sen. Peter Galbraith, one of the two swing votes who sided with opponents of the legislation Tuesday night, pulled Sen. Claire Ayer aside immediately after his vote. The two huddled in private, and Ayer returned to the floor voicing new hope for compromise.
The body agreed to postpone action on the legislation until Wednesday morning – a vote that needed Galbraith’s support to carry – and lawmakers will give it another go tomorrow.
Neither Galbraith nor Ayer would offer much insight into the contents of the compromise.
“It’s something that we’d talked about in the past, that we’ll be willing to look at now that it might keep this alive,” Ayer said.
Asked what the package might look like, Ayer wouldn’t say.
“I know what’s in it and I have seen the pieces,” Ayer said. “It’s something that we weren’t going to do, but it’s something we can get behind as a last resort.”
Galbraith was equally cryptic in his brief remarks after the floor session tonight.
“All will be revealed in due course,” Galbraith said. “Or nothing will be revealed. I’m not saying there’s anything in the bag.”
Galbraith had said he’d bee willing to vote in favor of Oregon-style legislation, which mandates a series of steps patients and doctors by which doctors must abide before prescribing a lethal dose of medication. But Galbraith said patients and physicians shouldn’t be forced to go through that process if they don’t want to. And he said any legislation he approves will have to allow for off-the-record transactions between patients and doctors that offers criminal immunity without enforcing state-mandated procedural requirements.
The Senate is scheduled to reconvene Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., however the end-of-life bill won’t be taken up until at least 11 a.m.