A former Vermont lawmaker and local House Majority Leader has died assisted by a law he helped pass that allows the terminally ill to end their lives, his wife said.
Willem Jewett died Jan. 12, at age 58, at his home in Ripton, according to his wife, Ellen McKay Jewett. He had been diagnosed with mucosal melanoma more than a year ago. In the days before his death, Jewett supported changes to a 2013 law to make it easier for the terminally ill to get a prescription, said VTDigger, which first reported the matter.
“In his very own way, Willem continued to push forward an initiative that he believed in and harnessed his ability to stand up for people,” his daughter, Abigail, said Wednesday.
A lawyer and competitive cyclist, Jewett served in the Vermont House of Representatives from 2003 to 2016, where he was known for his energy, humor and intelligence, and for cycling more than 50 miles to the state Capitol. on the occasion of the annual Earth Day journey. The Democrat was Deputy Majority Leader in 2011 and then Majority Leader.
“He lived life like there was no spare time,” House Speaker Shap Smith said. In the Legislature, he was great to work with, he was very smart and “definitely had a combative side to him,” Smith said.
When the House of Representatives finally approved the proposal in 2013 after a day of debate in which members recounted how their loved ones had died, Jewett, then the majority leader, said that with the measure, “we can all continue being faithful to our criteria at the end of our life”.