Vermont’s Death with Dignity Law Implemented

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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.

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