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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Vermont Hospitals Say No to Assisted Suicide



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When Vermont unwisely legalized physician-prescribed suicide, the law allowed an opt-out for hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, etc. Some are taking advantage of the conscience protection. From the Brattleboro Reformer story:

Vermont’s smallest hospital has become the latest medical facility to opt out of the state’s new aid-in-dying law. But the decision, rendered by the Grace Cottage Hospital board of trustees on Friday, was deemed “temporary.” Hospital administrators expect to revisit the matter in no more than 90 days, and in the meantime they’ll work out the complex details of accommodating terminally ill patients who request lethal doses of medication. “Opting out doesn’t mean that we are not going to implement the law,” Dr. Maurice Geurts, Grace Cottage medical staff president, said in a statement issued after the vote.

Let’s hope Grace Hospital has the guts to hold firm. After all, suicide in a hospital affects other patients as well as the one who died.

Grace isn’t alone:

It comes less than two weeks after Brattleboro Memorial Hospital’s board of directors also opted out after what was called a “thoughtful and contentious discussion.” “The staff thinks the hospital is a facility people come to for healing, and the intent of the law is not to make the hospital a place where people come to die,” Dr. Kathleen McGraw, BMH chief medical officer, said of the June 11 vote. Vermont’s largest hospital, Fletcher Allen in Burlington, also has opted out. But in a June 5 post on the hospital’s website, Fletcher Allen Chief Medical Officer Stephen M. Leffler said the exemption was enacted “on an interim basis” to give administrators the opportunity to “develop a thoughtful, compassionate policy that will respect our patients and providers.”

More of this please. And make the opt-outs permanent.

Just because a state legalizes assisted suicide, that doesn’t mean it has to be facilitated. The only way to prevent the USA from jumping off the same vertical moral cliff as the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland already have is to keep assisted suicide from becoming culturally accepted.

In this regard, medical professionals and facilities in states where doctors can help kill patients have a major responsibility to keep that “acceptance” from occurring. Refusing to participate is a splendid way to do that. It sends a powerful message: “It may be legal, but it is still wrong.”



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