MONTPELIER, Vt. - Vermont's lawmakers approved a bill Monday night allowing doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients who request it, making it the first state in the country to give legislative backing to assisted suicide.
The measure approved in a 75-65 roll call vote now goes before Gov. Peter Shumlin, who has expressed support for the legislation.
Three other states - Oregon, Washington and Montana - have similar laws but Oregon and Washington approved then through public referendum while in Montana a court decision had a similar effect.
The bill largely mirrors the law passed by Oregon voters in 1997 for the first three years, then shifts to a system with less government monitoring. Some Vermont lawmakers likened the approach to using training wheels in the early years of the law.
Supporters of the bill have said it will allow the terminally ill a measure of control over their lives - death with dignity - but critics call it physician-assisted suicide.