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Hassan vetoes N.H. bill that would have studied “end-of-life decisions”

Gov. Maggie Hassan yesterday issued her first veto since taking office six months ago, rejecting a bill that would have established a legislative committee to study “end-of-life decisions.”

Hassan, a Democrat, called House Bill 403 unnecessary and said discussions about “the complex and emotional issues related to end-of-life decisions” should focus “on helping all of those in our society to fully live their lives with the dignity that they deserve.”

The bill, as originally introduced by Rep. Chuck Weed, would have created a commission to study “death with dignity for persons suffering from a terminal condition.” Weed, a Keene Democrat, said his model was Oregon’s 1994 physician-assisted suicide law.

But, Weed said yesterday, the more general study mandate adopted by the House and Senate “was designed to cover the whole gamut of end-of-life decisions.” And it “never was or was intended to be” about euthanasia, he said.

“I can’t believe the governor vetoed it. . . . It seems that one thing our society needs to do is more effective end-of-life planning,” Weed said.

Hassan said in her veto statement that New Hampshire has already worked to address the issue, including with an advance-directive law that allows people to specify who should make their medical decisions if they are incapacitated and under what circumstances life-saving treatment should be administered or declined.

“Therefore, I see no need for the study committee outlined by HB 403 and have vetoed the legislation,” Hassan said.

The Democratic-led House passed the bill in February on a 212-140 vote – short
of the two-thirds majority
that would be required to override Hassan’s veto. The Republican-led Senate passed it in May on a voice vote.

“There’d be no hope for an override,” Weed said.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or
bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

I wouldn't say that an override is totally impossible, but it is highly unlikely. Unless the "veto day" happens in July or August, the bill becomes pointless, since the committee has to finish its work and issue its report by November 1, 2013. The original idea was that the committee would meet this summer, as soon as the bill was passed into law. At the moment, it has not been passed. The House and Senate rules would both allow for the introduction of a similar bill next year.

When someone is terminally ill, they should have the right to call the game.

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