Act 39, Vermont’s Patient Choice and Control at End of Life law, adopted in 2013, gives adult Vermonters who are terminally ill and who are capable of making their own decisions the option to receive medical aid in dying (MAID) to be self-administered to bring about a peaceful death if and when the patient chooses. Vermont is among the eleven states that have similar laws providing end-of-life choice, covering 22% of Americans. Based on more than eight years of experience in Vermont, legislation (S.74) has been introduced to make minor adjustments to Act 39.
Safeguard System Fundamental to Act 39 is a comprehensive set of requirements and a carefully defined process. These procedures assure that legalized aid in dying is available only to those who are near death, competent to decide, and who have made the decision to request this assistance. The safeguard system is comprised of:
A strict set of five qualification requirements
A mandatory eight-step process
Documentation by the doctor filed with the Vermont Department of Health
Eight Years of Experience Since its passage in 2013, Act 39 has worked well and delivered peace of mind to Vermonters.
The Vermont Department of Health reported that as of June 30, 2021, 116 people qualified to receive terminal medication and about two-thirds of them are known to have used it.
77% of those who qualified were due to cancer; 16% were due to neurodegenerative diseases; the remainder were due to other illnesses.
The Vermont Department of Health has received no complaints of abuse related to Act 39.
Doctors have prescribed end-of-life medication to patients in all parts of the state.
Every hospice organization in Vermont (except for services provided by the Veterans’ Administration) has demonstrated a commitment to the best possible end of life care, including supporting those patients who choose to use medical aid in dying.
Patient Choices Vermont provides educational resources on Vermont's Act 39, end-of-life choice, and medical decision-making. Please see the following pages:
Text of Act 39: Provides the text of Vermont's Patient Choice at End of Life law.