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On Medical Conscience and Assisted Suicide, Good News from Vermont and Maine

Wesley J. Smith

assisted suicide

With the attacks on medical conscience increasing, here’s some fine news. Alliance Defending Freedom has successfully obtained a consent decree that protects doctors in Vermont from having to counsel about assisted suicide to legally qualified patients if they are morally or religiously opposed. From the decree:

Plaintiffs and similarly situated medical providers do not have a legal or professional obligation to counsel and refer patients for the Patient Choice at End of Life process [e.g., assisted suicide].

That’s good.

It didn’t sit well with the assisted-suicide advocacy organization Compassion and Choices — formerly the more honestly named Hemlock Society.  The group had filed a notice of appeal — very clearly showing the future intentions of assisted-suicide pushers toward dissenting doctors. But lacking standing — it wasn’t a party to the case — C & C finally took their jars of poison pills and went home.

However, let’s be clear: Vermont bureaucrats and assisted-suicide advocates wanted to force dissenting doctors to be complicit in the assisted-suicide process. And it took a lawsuit to stop them.

This is just a small skirmish in a much bigger policy and moral conflict. Even more concerted efforts seeking to force doctors, nurses, and pharmacists to participate in morally contentious legal activities in the medical context will be forthcoming, toward the end of forcing medical professionals to surrender their consciences as a condition of licensure regarding issues such as abortion, assisted suicide, Catholic religious values maintained in Catholic hospitals, etc.

Good for Alliance Defending Freedom for standing firm on medical conscience!

And turning to another New England state, there is more good news. We have been told over many years that assisted suicide is unstoppable, an idea for which the time has come.

That’s baloney. Assisted-suicide legalization efforts almost always lose. Now, in Maine. From the Portland Press Herald story:

House lawmakers rejected a bill on Tuesday that would have allowed doctors to prescribe fatal doses of medication to terminally ill patients who want to end their own lives.

The bipartisan 85-61 vote against the bill followed lengthy and oftentimes emotional debate among lawmakers sharing personal stories of watching loved ones battle terminal diseases.

If the media weren’t so in the tank for assisted suicide and did their journalistic job of explaining why the opposition to legalization extends very far beyond religion, people would see that universal legalization is anything but “inevitable.” Onward!

Photo credit: © Tomasz Zajda —

Cross-posted at The Corner.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.



abortionAlliance Defending Freedomassisted suicideCatholicismCompassion and ChoicesHemlock SocietyMainePortland Press HeraldVermont