MONTPELIER, VT, May 16, 2013 ( – Vermont is poised to become the third state to legalize physician-assisted suicide after the proposed law passed the state legislature on Tuesday. The state's Democratic Governor, Peter Shumlin, has promised to sign it within six days.

The new law decriminalizes the killing of terminally ill patients at the hands of their doctors upon the request of the patient.


A patient must be expected to die from terminal illness within six months in order to qualify for “assisted suicide.”

The new law grants physicians immunity from prosecution as long as they adhere to government stipulations about constitutes informed consent on the part of the patient.

Those stipulations will end in 2016, when legislators expect doctors to develop their own methods and requirements for killing terminally ill patients.

Mary Hahn Beerworth of the Vermont Right to Life Committee told that “an incredible network of diverse organizations” that has bonded over 10 years of fighting “doctor-prescribed suicide” will “be carefully monitoring for abuse of the law all across the state…Health care professionals under the banner of the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, Vermont Right to Life and our various chapters in local communities, disability rights organizations, the Roman Catholic Diocese, and much much more.”

“In a state as small as Vermont, news of abuse will travel quickly along with the knowledge of which doctors will write the lethal prescriptions and which will not,” she said.

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There had been controversy among pro-assisted suicide legislators over government oversight and involvement, which threatened to derail the bill.

The Burlington Free Press reported that State Senator Peter Galbraith believes the bill “limits government involvement in a process he thinks should be between a patient and a doctor.”

The requirements are less restrictive than Oregon’s infamous “assisted suicide” law.

Vermont is the third state to decriminalize physician-assisted suicide, after Oregon and Washington. However, it is the first state to do so through a vote of the legislature. The first two states used the ballot initiative process.

Senate Bill 77 first narrowly passed the Senate by a margin of 17-13, then cleared the House 75-65.

After being signed, the law will take effect on July 1.