Lawmaker Dies Using Assisted Suicide Law He Helped Pass

By Bill Galluccio

January 19, 2022

Willem Jewett
Photo: Courtesy Photo

A former Vermont lawmaker died using an assisted suicide law that he helped pass. Willem Jewett, who served as the majority leader in the Vermont House of Representatives, was diagnosed with mucosal melanoma over a year ago.

Jewett tried numerous procedures to beat the rare form of cancer, including chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation treatment. After those treatments failed to eliminate the terminal cancer, he decided to end his own life.

“Knowing that this is gonna be in Willem’s hands, and he’s not going to have to linger through some kind of gruesome, awful, long process, is incredibly comforting to us,” Willem’s wife, Ellen McKay Jewett, told the VTDigger.

During his time as a legislator, Jewett helped pass a law allowing terminally ill patients to obtain a prescription for medication to end their lives. In the days leading up to his death, Jewett worked with lawmakers to make changes to the 2013 law based on his own experience trying to navigate the process to obtain a prescription.

Jewett “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,” Betsy Walkerman, president of Patient Choices Vermont, a nonprofit organization, told the Associated Press.

Jewett passed away at his home, surrounded by his family, on January 12.

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