Medical EthicsPolicy & Law

Vermont Poised to Pass End of Life Legislation

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Vermont becomes the fourth state to legalize a physician’s ability to prescribe lethal medication to the terminally ill patient. The act is significant in this state because it is the result of legislative action. Three other states have had similar measures approved by either referendum (WA, OR) or judicial action (MT).

Vermont becomes the fourth state to legalize a physician’s ability to prescribe lethal medication to the terminally ill patient. The act is significant in this state because it is the result of legislative action. Three other states have had similar measures approved by either referendum (WA, OR) or judicial action (MT). To refresh one’s memory on the breadth of allowable actions a physician and patient may take in this care delivery scenario, Vermont will pattern its approach after methods used in Oregon: stopgap measures to prohibit patient coercion by requiring a waiting “change of heart” period of 15 days, and an evaluation by another provider.

However, the state’s law will prevent criminal charges and investigations filed against participating physicians’ beginning July 1, 2016 — three years after this legislation is to be signed into law in Vermont. Apparently, this gives physicians time to become familiar with the law. At that time, physicians will only be required to utilize informed consent regarding lethal prescriptions only after all reasonable modes of death with dignity have been discussed with the patient, including all available hospice and palliative measures. The patient will then be able to independently make a decision on whether to ask for a lethal treatment. | LINK

health legislation

(image: End of life legislation in VT / shutterstock)

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