MONTPELIER, December 6, 2012, ( – Despite strong opposition from pro-life forces and a recent high-profile defeat in neighboring Massachusetts, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin said last week he is confident the state legislature will pass a bill legalizing assisted suicide during the next session.

Referring to assisted suicide as “death with dignity,” Shumlin laid out his agenda for 2013 in a press conference last week.

“I’m confident that regardless of who leads the various bodies in the legislature, that we can pass decriminalization of marijuana, death with dignity, and the [unionization] bill for childcare workers,” the governor said. “We’re going to get them done.”


But the Democratic governor will face strong resistance, even from within his own party. 

Senate president John Campbell, also a Democrat, has consistently opposed so-called “death with dignity” legislation. He said last week that he has not changed his position on the issue and doubts whether it has enough support to pass the state legislature.

However, Campbell said he won’t try to block a vote on assisted suicide.

“I recognize that this issue is not going to go away,” said Campbell, “and if the majority of people want to have a debate, then that debate should happen.”

“If it passes it passes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t,” Campbell added. “But I think everyone involved in this conversation agrees there are issues that need to be vetted, so I think it’s worth taking the time to vet them.”

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Last year, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on the proposed assisted suicide legislation, but Committee chairman Dick Sears, another Democrat, ultimately blocked the bill from continuing to the full Senate for a vote. At the time, he told Vermont Public Radio, “A lot of times bills are votes based upon what I think my constituents want, or what’s best for the state of Vermont, what’s best for my region.”

Sears said assisted suicide is different.  “This one,” he said, “is clearly a vote of conscience.”

Vermont’s Democratic-controlled House of Representatives rejected an assisted suicide bill in 2007, defeating the measure by an 82-63 vote.

Vermont differs from other states where assisted suicide has been legalized in that the state lacks a ballot initiative process, meaning laws can only be made by the legislature.

Oregon and Washington, the two states that currently permit assisted suicide, passed their laws by popular vote.  A similar ballot initiative in Massachusetts was rejected by voters last month.