Vermont has passed a bill legalizing physician-assisted suicide, and with Gov. Peter Shumlin's signature expected this week, will become the nation's third state to allow it. Under the new law, people over 18 with an "incurable and irreversible disease" and less than six months left to live can be prescribed lethal drugs if they request them, the Wall Street Journal reports. Shumlin says the law will give "Vermonters who are suffering from a terminal illness and anticipating excruciating pain peace of mind in knowing that this is an option."
Some supporters say the news may once again open up nationwide discussion of so-called "death with dignity" laws. But Shumlin isn't so sure—the outcome in Vermont is the result of a hard-fought 10-year campaign over the issue. "We’ve had a very respectful, dignified conversation about a difficult issue where there are strongly held beliefs on both sides," he said. Just last year, Massachusetts voted down a similar proposal, and the only other states to legalize the practice so far are Washington and Oregon. Vermont has been busy: The state also just decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot. (Read more Vermont stories.)