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Lawmaker Uses Medical Suicide Law He Helped Pass To End His Own Life

by : Hannah Smith on :
Lawmaker Uses Medical Suicide Law He Helped Pass To End His Own Life
Lawmaker Uses Medical Suicide Law He Helped Pass To End His Own Life (Alamy/WCAX)

A former Vermont lawmaker has ended his own life under a medical suicide law he helped to create, his wife has said.

Willem Jewett died on January 12 aged 58 at his home in Ripton, Vermont, just over a year after being diagnosed with mucosal melanoma – a rare form of cancer.

He was the Vermont House of Representatives majority leader in 2013 when the state legislature voted to approve a law allowing those who were terminally ill to end their own lives.

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Jewett was described as 'critical' in helping get support for the bill, as his family revealed that even in his final days he had been working to advocate for change to the 2013 legislation that would make it easier for terminally-ill patients to obtain lethal prescriptions that could be self-administered at home rather than in a clinic.

Willem Jewett (MCTV Vermont/YouTube)
Willem Jewett (MCTV Vermont/YouTube)

'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 said in a statement, per AP.

Jewett served for 13 years in the Vermont House after being elected as a Democrat in 2003. Paying tribute to his former colleague, House Speaker Shap Smith described Jewett as someone who 'definitely had a feisty side', adding, 'He lived life as if there wasn’t a moment to spare.'

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While considering the 2013 legislation, Jewett met with advocates for assisted dying and heard testimony from fellow lawmakers about their experience of the deaths of their own loved ones.

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'I’ve listened to all these stories, very personal stories, and I respect every single one of them,' he said at the time, stating that allowing terminally ill patients to choose to end their own lives would help to ensure that 'we all get to remain true to our guideposts at the end of our life'.

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Betsy Walkerman, president of non-profit organisation Patient Choices Vermont, revealed that she had last spoken to Jewett five days before he died, saying that he had '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'.

The proposals made by Jewett about changes to law in his final month are now set to be considered by the House.

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Hannah Smith

Hannah is a London-based journalist covering news and features for UNILAD. She's especially interested in social and political activism and culture.

Topics: News, US News