Act 39, Vermont Patient Choice and Control at the End of Life Act has been in effect since May 2013.
Resources and Additional Information
About the Statute and Its Implementation
- Full text of the Vermont Patient Choice and Control at the End of Life Act
- Vermont Ethics Network
- As of June 30, 2017, 29 Vermont residents used the state’s assisted death law to hasten their death, according to the Vermont Department of Health (as first reported here).
- In 2017, the Vermont Medical Society changed its position on the law, stating it provides for a legal option whose use is up to patients and that members are free to decide whether they wish to participate in the law.
Resources for Patients
- Patient Choices Vermont – nonprofit helping Vermonters navigate the Patient Choice and Control at the End of Life Act and other end-of-life options
- “Request for Medication For The Purpose of Hastening My Death” [PDF form]
Resources for Healthcare Providers
Following our successful 10-year campaign to promote a Vermont aid-in-dying bill, in collaboration with the local partner Patient Choices Vermont, the Vermont state legislature passed the Act in 2013. Governor Peter Shumlin signed the Act on May 20, 2013. The law went into effect immediately. Vermont thus became the third state to enact a Death with Dignity law, the first to be passed through legislation.
The sunset provision on certain patient safeguards was removed by S.108 (Act 27) in May 2015.
The Vermont law is very similar to the Oregon and Washington Death with Dignity Acts in offering end-of-life options with strong safeguards against abuse.
2017 Legislative Session
In the 2017 legislative session, four bills were under consideration in the Vermont legislature seeking to restrict the use of Act 39, according to our friends at Patient Choices Vermont.
The bills sought, respectively, to impose a six-month minimum on the doctor-patient relationship in order for a doctor to prescribe under Act 39; to impose (among other restrictions) a requirement that an independent witness be present at the time of death; to require a physician to consult with the Adult Protective Services Program prior to writing a prescription under Act 39 and to document certain steps in connection with this consultation; and to specify that no physician has a duty to inform patients about their options under Act 39. None of the bills advanced.
Note: Information in this section is courtesy of Patient Choices Vermont.
On April 7, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford dismissed the lawsuit brought forward in July 2016 by two Christian groups claiming Vermont’s law infringes on the physicians’ freedom of speech by requiring them to discuss with patients all of their end-of-life options, including aid in dying.
Judge Crawford concluded that existing Vermont laws “continue to govern physicians in all aspects of their care of the terminally ill. Under these provisions, physicians must inform patients about all choices and options relevant to their medical treatment.”
In a December 18, 2017 ruling, Judge Crawford clarified that the consent agreement between the Vermont Attorney General and the plaintiffs of the original suit, which contradicted Vermont law quoted above, does not represent the court’s views and that the doctors’ duties to inform patients about all of their end-of-life care options remains intact.