History is Made

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Vermont: the first state to pass a Death with Dignity law through legislation!

Lawmakers in Vermont supported the rights of terminally ill individuals and passed a Vermont law designed on the Oregon and Washington Death with Dignity Acts—the first one to be enacted through a legislative process and first of its kind on the east coast.

Today’s historic event comes after more than 10 years of diligent work by our partners, Patient Choices Vermont. From the beginning in 2002, our family of organizations has been directly involved as a full partner with Patient Choices Vermont. Together, we’ve changed the entire conversation around end-of-life care policy reform.

The new Vermont law emulates the Oregon and Washington Death with Dignity Acts and provides a process for mentally competent, terminally ill patients to achieve a peaceful death by ingesting medication provided by their physician.

This was the kind of option Rep. Dick Mallary and his wife Jean wanted for themselves and the reason for their passionate supporter of Patient Choices Vermont. Unfortunately, the law didn’t pass in time for former Rep. Mallary.  In September, 2011, suffering from terminal pancreatic cancer, he chose to end his life. Without the protections afforded by the new Vermont law he was forced to die alone for fear his loved ones could be charged with a crime. Today, Governor Shumlin’s signature ensures terminally ill Vermonters are able to die in the comfort of their own homes and say their final goodbyes to loved ones in a peaceful setting.

This new law, and all of the information shared throughout the multi-year effort to pass it, has directly changed the national conversation around death, dying, and assisted death. This is a giant step forward for our entire movement, and all of us here at the Death with Dignity National Center are proud to have worked with Patient Choices Vermont to build the foundation for Vermont:

  • Eli Stutsman, founder of Oregon Death with Dignity and author of the Oregon and Washington Death with Dignity Acts provided countless hours of legal counsel over the duration of the Vermont effort;
  • With our supporter’s help, DDNC raised and donated over $200,000 directly to Patient Choices Vermont to fund their educational efforts, constituent outreach, and town forums.;
  • We provided nearly 2,000 staff hours in educational efforts, political strategy consultation, and constituent outreach;
  • Leadership, political strategy, and a historic perspective of the Death with Dignity movement and the Oregon experience were provided over 11 years of on the ground in person meetings, phone calls, and emails.

Every step of the way we worked alongside Patient Choices Vermont, sharing our years of experience advocating for Death with Dignity laws.

Everyone deserves to decide how to live the rest of their lives when death is near. We’ll continue to move forward as people throughout the US join their voices together to demand more end-of-life options. The Death with Dignity National Center will stand with them, just as we did this year in Vermont, last year in Massachusetts, in Washington in 2008, and 19 years ago in Oregon.

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