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Vermont's Death with Dignity Law Implemented

Officials with the Vermont Department of Health have been hard at work solidifying the details to implement Vermont's new Death with Dignity law. Throughout their efforts, the Death with Dignity National Center, our board member George Eighmey, and other professionals familiar with the processes in Oregon and Washington have been working closely with Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen to develop a system in full compliance with the Vermont law.

This is an extension of the work we've been doing with our partners in Vermont for over 10 years. When Patient Choices Vermont first formed in 2002, president Dick Walters approached our organization as the leader in the movement for crafting, providing education about, and promoting groundbreaking Death with Dignity legislation.

At the time, Oregon had the only law in the country codifying a safeguarded practice for doctors to honor a terminally ill patient's wish if the patient requested life-ending medication. The law had been in effect for five years, and consistent with the data today, the state's annual reports of usage demonstrated the law worked as intended: rarely used, but providing comfort to individuals who knew they had options at the end of their lives.

With this knowledge, Patient Choices set about building the foundation of grassroots support in Vermont. We were there every step of the way to lend our legal and political experience and help coordinate experts in the field to discuss how the laws have worked in other states and would work in Vermont. As an organization, we're honored to continue our work with Vermonters to help them develop and hone the processes for implementing their new law.

The Vermont Department of Health website has a complete set of resources and forms available to terminally ill Vermonters who'd like to learn more about their new law. Included on the site are the necessary forms for physicians and patients, a link to the text of the law, and it'll soon include a Frequently Asked Questions section. And as always, more information about the Vermont, Washington, and Oregon laws can be found on our website.

Posted on July 11, 2013 in New England, Press Room, Vermont

Comments

Posted by Vincent J. Patti (not verified) on July 15, 2013 at 12:16 p.m.

I have lupus and AIDS and this gives me something to hope for. Thanks.

Posted by Carmen (not verified) on September 5, 2013 at 05:51 p.m.

Thanks to all those who have worked so hard to help those that need this so much!

Posted by Jay Brooke (not verified) on December 5, 2013 at 10:34 a.m.

I am an AIDS survivor. And in treatment for COPD Along with a small list of secondary Illnesses.
I now know after fighting so hard to overcome obstacle's with dignity, that I will also be able to die with dignity. And my Family and Friends can relax and celebrate my life.

Posted by Sharon Kelly (not verified) on December 14, 2013 at 06:07 p.m.

Thank you for providing a law that makes sense to humanity and gives individuals the necessary means to carry out wishes as they deem appropriate.

Posted by Alvin Yakatori (not verified) on March 19, 2014 at 06:53 a.m.

In reply to Sharon Kelly, this legislation makes absolutely no sense to humanity. We should not be seeking to end human life just because the person is suffering, because suffering can be good in some circumstances. It is not "humane" to kill someone, quite the contrary. The legislation proposed is abominable and would degrade human dignity incomparably.

Posted by Melissa Barber on March 20, 2014 at 04:19 p.m.

Thank you for sharing your opinion about Death with Dignity laws, Alvin. Somethings I'd like to point out:

- Death with Dignity laws allow for just one end-of-life option which allows a dying person to control the manner and timing of his or her death. No one is obligated to request the medication, and if a doctor or pharmacists disagrees with these laws based on their own personal beliefs, they don't need to participate.

- The entire process allowed under Death with Dignity laws are patient-centered, and the entire decision and extensive request process rests, quite literally, in the hands of the person who is dying.

- To read more about these important laws, please visit this page on our website: http://www.deathwithdignity.org/access-acts, and I highly recommend watching the documentary "How to Die in Oregon" to better understand why people decide to exercise their rights under the Death with Dignity laws.

Best,
Melissa
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Melissa Barber
Director of Digital Communications
Death with Dignity National Center

Posted by Joseph Smith (not verified) on March 28, 2014 at 04:50 p.m.

I have terminal cancer,right now they give me drugs to mask the pain that I still feel! The tumor is in my bones ,lungs, wraped around my trigenatal nerve and if you any body reads about this pain it is the worst pain known to mankind! From my opinion on it it is terrible,worst. Pretty soon it will start giving me problems with my lungs and bone pain. None of the Doctors can tell me how long before the cancer kills me! I ask why do I have to suffer so terribly bad? It's inhuman. There will come a time when I have had enough, I hope my family will agree and be there to say good by! That would be love and dignity for sure! Common sence . I have been fighting and suffering for two plus years and it's getting old and much more terrible.I'm ready for some relief! I'ii pray tonight and I'm sure The Lord will guide me! Thank you. Joe

Posted by Joseph Smith (not verified) on April 14, 2014 at 07:39 a.m.

Why isn't my post for March 28th not posted or verified

Posted by Melissa Barber on April 15, 2014 at 12:49 p.m.

Thank you for reaching out again, Joe. I'm not sure why you're not seeing your March 28th comment. I posted it shortly after you submitted it.

I'm very sorry you're suffering. I strongly recommend talking to your current medical team about receiving a palliative care consultation. The medical specialty is often associated with hospice; however, it can also be used independently at any stage of an illness and alongside curative treatments. Palliative care is available in every state, appropriate for anyone at any stage of life suffering with a debilitating illness--terminal or not--and focuses on pain management and providing comfort. I encourage you to start with a discussion about palliative care with your physician, but if you need more resources, these sites can help you find palliative doctors nearby:

- Get Palliative Care: http://www.getpalliativecare.org/howtoget/
- Palliative Doctors: http://www.palliativedoctors.org/
- The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization: http://www.nhpco.org/learn-about-end-life-care

Best,
Melissa
-----------------
Melissa Barber
Director of Digital Communications
Death with Dignity National Center

Posted by Chuck (not verified) on October 7, 2014 at 04:42 p.m.

Im from NYC and have Parkinson, diabetes, heart condition, HBP, how i wish that NYS would have a death with dignity law passed here! Assuming I lived in Vermont would I qualify? How can I get this in my state or do I have to move to Vermont even though I am only 275 miles away? Thank you

Posted by Melissa Barber on October 8, 2014 at 12:15 p.m.

Thank you for asking, Chuck. The Oregon, Washington, and Vermont Death with Dignity laws allow adult state residents to request life ending medications from their doctor in the event of terminal illness. In order to receive that medication, the patient must be over 18, a permanent resident of one of the states mentioned above, judged mentally competent by his or her physician, and have a terminal illness that will result in death in six months or fewer.

Residency in these states is established by having a state issued ID such as a driver’s license, paying taxes in one of those states, renting/owning property, or being a registered voter. There is no required length of residency. The patient’s physician determines if the patient is a resident.

You can find more information about accessing the Oregon, Washington, and Vermont Death with Dignity laws here: http://www.deathwithdignity.org/access-act

Best,
Melissa
-----------------
Melissa Barber
Director of Digital Communications
Death with Dignity National Center

Posted by Edwin (not verified) on October 8, 2014 at 03:56 p.m.

Hi out there world if it where up to me I would make that law for every state I think we all have our reason not to want to exist for me is not being able to support my kids financially and see them in need and not being able to fill there needs I feel like nothing ever going to get better no matter how hard I try and trust me I've been trying to give it all I have and it hasn't been enouth I feel like my best is not enouth for this world I think that if you want to die it should be your choice and that you should be able to do it in peace just like the doctors have done for others....

Posted by Dennis (not verified) on November 3, 2014 at 08:35 a.m.

Hi Melissa,
If a patient were to exercise their right under the law, would Life Insurance companies have a claim to not pay the "death benefits" under someone's policy ?

Posted by Melissa Barber on November 3, 2014 at 05:30 p.m.

Thank you for your question, Dennis. All of the Death with Dignity laws which emulate our model legislation, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, include a provision which specifies life insurance and other financial investments cannot be affected by requesting or ingesting the medication. Here's this particular section of the Washington law: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=70.245.170

In addition, the cause of death is always listed as the underlying illness whether or not the patient shortens their suffering by ingesting the prescribed medication. Roughly a third of the people who request the medication never end up taking it, but they're comforted knowing the option is there if their suffering becomes unbearable.

Best,
Melissa
-----------------
Melissa Barber
Director of Digital Communications
Death with Dignity National Center

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