Local representatives split in voting on end-of-life bill

UPDATE: This story has been updated since it was originally posted to add new information about Rep. Nuovo’s vote on the bill.
MONTPELIER — Addison County House members on May 1 were evenly split in an 80-57 vote giving preliminary approval to a bill that would allow physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to terminally ill patients seeking to end their own lives (12 lawmakers were absent).
The House voted on the bill on Tuesday after many hours of emotionally charged debate. Bill S.77 sets up a series of steps that would allow terminally ill Vermonters with an estimated six months or less to live to ingest a lethal dose of medicine. S.77 is patterned after a law that has been in effect in Oregon for years.
The bill supported by the House was similar to a version that the Senate ultimately eschewed (by a split vote) in February in favor of a measure that would have simply granted immunity to physicians who prescribe a lethal dose of medicine to terminally ill patients. It would also have indemnified any person who was with the patient at time of death.
Local House members voting in favor of the broader bill on Tuesday included Reps. Michael Fisher, D-Lincoln; Willem Jewett, D-Ripton; David Sharpe, D-Bristol; and Will Stevens, I-Shoreham. Voting against the bill were Reps. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes; Paul Ralston, D-Middlebury; Harvey Smith, R-New Haven; and Warren Van Wyck, R-Ferrisburgh.
Rep. Betty Nuovo, D-Middlebury, was absent for the vote. (Nuovo told the Independent that she was indeed absent from the vote on the second reading of the bill, but she was present for the third and final reading, and she voted in favor.)
The measure must now be reconciled in the Senate.

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