Death With Dignity supporters mount ad campaign

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(Host) Legislation that would allow doctors to help terminally ill patients end their lives stalled in the last session of the legislature.

But supporters have mounted an advertising campaign featuring three well-known Vermonters in hopes new legislation will be introduced next year.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) The ads feature former Governors Phil Hoff and Madeleine May Kunin and former Lieutenant Governor Barbara Snelling.

(Hoff) "I have to recognize that my life-span is not limited "
(Kunin) "End of life discussions are important "
(Snelling) "It is compassion. It is allowing people to make their own decisions "

(Zind) Interspersed with the images of the three speakers are the words "The time has come – support end of life choices legislation."

The ads are running for about two weeks on two Vermont television stations. They’re paid for by an organization called Death With Dignity Vermont.

Dick Walters of Death with Dignity says the ads are intended to keep the issue before Vermonters as they elect a new legislature in November. What supporters call Death With Dignity legislation failed to make it out of committee last session. But Walters says the bill’s supporters feel that after much consideration and public discussion – its now time for lawmakers to act.

(Walters) "They’ve watched this process go forward and that It’s time to get the word out to the next generation of leaders, that it’s time to deal with the issue here."

(Zind) Walters says he expects a bill identical to the one considered last session will be introduced when the new legislature convenes in January. The bill mirrors an Oregon law passed in 1997.

Walters says surveys show broad support for so-called Death with Dignity legislation.

Opponents say there is also broad opposition to what they call Physician Assisted Suicide.

Doctor Robert Orr is with the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Health Care.

Orr says the issue doesn’t seem to be on the minds of voters this year. He believes that support for the legislation is waning.

(Orr) "I don’t know what the makeup of the committees will be. My feeling in talking with legislators is there is less support for this than there was when it was first introduced four years ago. But I think changes in who sits in the legislature will have some influence on where it goes or if it goes."

(Zind) Orr says he hasn’t seen the new television ads in favor of allowing a physician to help terminally ill patients end their life.

Death with Dignity Vermont won’t say how much is being spent on the ads.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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