Food for thought! (written before final version of S77 was approved by the Vermont Legislature) by Bob Orleck
Increased risk of murder for dying patients under Physician Assisted Suicide law!
Much lip service has been given to the need to provide protections in the process that would allow the patient choice to end their life because it is recognized that there are cases where they will be coerced into making the decision. It is almost certain that there are situations that occur under the current state of the law where a patient is forced to or coerced into choosing to end their own life. There have been and will be cases as well where a murderer has or will attempt to make the murder look like suicide. Whether a person has violated the criminal law in their dealings with a dying patient is something that an investigation and possible prosecution might reveal. The deterrent effect of the criminal law might well be the best protection that dying patients currently has against such actions by family, so-called friends or medical staff. The proposed law will destroy that deterrent effect!
Before the enactment of the law, a death by suicide would be investigated and if there was evidence of wrongdoing or a crime the prosecutor would have to evaluate whether charges would be appropriate. After the enactment the investigative system would likely never kick in. It is doubtful under that state of the law, whether in questionable cases there would be any police investigation and subsequent prosecution. Even if the crime was a poorly planned or badly executed one with likely police discoverable evidence, that crime will probably go undiscovered. Why? Because it would be assumed that with all the supposed legislative protections (requesting a lethal dose 3 times, being required to take the medication oneself, etc.) the system has worked. Our official public concern has been satisfied! Even the cause of death on the death certificate is listed as the underlying disease the patient has. Society has done its duty! End of case no matter what the truth is!
Even in the unlikely case that a charge for murder is brought, that prosecution is made even more difficult. In addition to the usual proof the prosecution is put to, they must now overcome the huge burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant was more than just a witness in a state sanctioned suicide. This is a huge tool the law would give to a defense attorney.