He Helped Pass Assisted Suicide Law, Used It Himself

Former Vermont legislator Willem Jewett had terminal diagnosis, ended his life
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 20, 2022 2:04 PM CST
He Helped Pass Assisted Suicide Law, Used It Himself
Vermont Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, left, chats with his daughter, Anneke, during the first day of the legislature in Montpelier, Vt., in 2004.   (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

(Newser) – A former Vermont legislator and House majority leader has died with the help of a law he helped pass that allows the terminally ill to end their own lives, per the AP. Willem Jewett died Jan. 12 at his home in Ripton at age 58, said his wife, Ellen McKay Jewett. He was diagnosed with mucosal melanoma over a year ago. Jewett, a lawyer and a competitive cyclist, served in the Vermont House from 2003 to 2016. The Democrat became assistant majority leader in 2011 and later majority leader. When the House gave final approval to the bill in 2013 after a day of debate in which members told stories of their own loved ones’ deaths, Jewett, then majority leader, said: “I’ve listened to all these stories, very personal stories, and I respect every single one of them.”

Jewett was critical in helping to organize a strategy on the bill, ensuring the House had the votes and then working with leadership to get support from senators. "His support was really critical,” said Betsy Walkerman, president of Patient Choices Vermont, a nonprofit organization. “He’s very proud of this bill." Jewett reached out to the group Dec. 29 about his own experience with the law and proposed changes now under consideration. Walkerman spoke to him by phone Jan. 7, five days before he died. He “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."

(Read more assisted suicide stories.)

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