Today, Vermont became the fourth state to legalize assisted suicide for the terminally ill.
In Oregon, where we enacted the nation's first assisted-suicide law in 1997, it's called "death with dignity."
Vermont's new law is patterned after Oregon's.
Slowly, but surely, other states will allow their citizens the freedom, and the dignity, to die on their own terms, not on the terms established by the medical-industrial complex or any religion.
This is how it should be.
But, it was a fight in Oregon. We passed it with 51 percent of the vote in 1994, but legal challenges delayed implementation. Then, the Republican-dominated legislature forced another ballot measure that sought repeal of the law in 1997. Voters rejected that attempt by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin. In other words, Oregonians overwhelmingly wanted what they voted for the first time around.
Washington was late to this party, but voters there passed their own death-with-dignity measure in 2008.
Montanans got their right by court order in 2009.
For those who think this is a slippery slope to government-forced euthanasia, take a chill pill.
The number of Oregonians who have opted for the assisted-suicide route has slowly increased over the years. Last year, a high of 77 people chose to go out this way.
To put that in perspective, more than 32,000 people died in Oregon last year.
Clearly, death with dignity hasn't been a problem. There have been no mass protests over it and no renewed attempt to repeal the law.
It's settled here.
Someday, it will be settled in most states that choose compassion over cruelty.