State Watch

Vermont Medical suicide law used by lawmaker who helped pass it

Greg Nash

A medical suicide law in Vermont was used by a lawmaker who was key to helping legalize the practice in 2013. 

Former Vermont House Majority Leader Willem Jewett (D), 58, used the medical suicide law to pass away on Jan. 12, after he was diagnosed with mucosal melanoma more than a year ago, his wife said, The Associated Press reported

The medical suicide law allows those who are terminally ill to end their lives. Jewett played a major role in crafting the bill before it became law. 

Jewett, who served in office 13 years, got support for the bill, organized it and worked with the Senate so the legislation could be sent to the governor. 

Leading up to his death and his firsthand experience with his own legislation, he suggested changes to improve upon it.

He talked to Patient Choices Vermont, a nonprofit organization, five days before his death to discuss changes to the law, according to the AP.

Betsy Walkerman, president of the group, said Jewett “just wanted to add his voice, which is incredibly powerful because he has this dual role as a legislator and a patient, a person near the end of life, who’s making choices.”

“He lived life as if there wasn’t a moment to spare,” former Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith (D) said in honor of Jewett, adding the former legislator “definitely had a feisty side.”

Before his death, Jewett wanted to make it easier for terminally ill patients to get a prescription and navigate the process. 

“It is very Willem fashion to still be pushing for legislation that he believed in and using his ability to advocate for people,” his daughter Abigail Jewett said.

Tags Death Suicide legislation terminal illness Vermont Willem Jewett

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