The idea of bringing people together to talk about death was originated by Swiss sociologist and anthropologist Bernard Crettaz who organized the first Café Mortel in 2004. The idea spawned an international Death Cafe movement with more than 6,000 hosted so far by various organizations around the world.
Here in Vermont, the movement to socially de-stigmatize talk about death and dying is well underway, with many events over the past few years. In August 2018, Alexandria Kerrigan, a recent graduate of the University of Vermont's End-of-Life Doula Program, launched the first Winooski Vermont Death Café and has hosted six monthly events since, renaming the concept as Death Talks last December.
Death Talks provide a safe place for open dialogue and the philosophical exploration of themes such as mortality, the afterlife, spirituality, cultural practices, history, individual experience, and more. Death Talks is not a personal support group nor a counseling session.
On Wednesday, January 23 from 6-8 pm, Betsy Walkerman and Francesca Arnoldy of Patient Choices VT will present a session regarding Vermont's Medical Aid in Dying Law (Act 39).
Alexandria Kerrigan holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education and is pursuing a masters in social work. She has been interested and comfortable with the topic of death since childhood and has extensive personal experience with grief and loss.
The Wishbone Collective hosts and sponsors monthly Death Talks in alignment with their mission to create a unique community space for all.
RSVPs are not necessary but you can do so while sharing the event with friends at the Facebook event Page: Death Talks featuring Patient Choices Vermont: Act 39 Seminar.
Thanks for considering attending this community outreach event,
"I would like to do anything I can to help Vermonters understand the gift of having Act 39. One of the gifts I'm only now recognizing is that it gave me the ability to grieve before my husband died - and the same for him. For nine months, we spoke only our truth to each other, and flirted, and cried, and found a way to believe that we would not be separated." - Susan G.
Those eloquent words from a grateful supporter made me pause, read them again, and let my heart absorb their full impact. Whenever PCV receives thanks like this, I know how important our work is. Together, we share an effort to be informed and ready to contribute to end-of-life choice discussions with our friends. This year we celebrated the 5th anniversary of Vermont’s Patient Choice law by fostering those discussions and advancing the future of Act 39 on several fronts.
From One to None… to Six Pharmacies!
Since the enactment of Act 39 and until last January, we had just ONE pharmacy in Vermont filling medical-aid-in-dying prescriptions! Then, we learned that the only participating pharmacy would cease filling Act 39 prescriptions as a result of new corporate ownership. For several weeks there were NO pharmacies in Vermont available to fill medical-aid-in-dying prescriptions.
The PCV board immediately established an initiative to achieve pharmacy coverage across the state and by February, we were able to convince the one pharmacy to resume filling prescriptions. Realizing the vulnerability, we began work to add pharmacies to the list and are now at SIX pharmacies ready to serve Vermont’s end-of-life patients - an essential component that helps to solidify Act 39.
No organization but PCV would have addressed this vital pharmacy issue!
We also clarified with Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center’s administration that Vermont-licensed doctors in their network who practice in Vermont can indeed assist Vermont patients under Act 39 - a very important development for communities along our eastern border.
2018 was a Year of Big Accomplishments!
Please consider what End-of-Life Choice means to you. Your financial support is what enables our focused and dedicated work.
We Achieved a Major Cost Reduction in End-of-Life Prescription Drugs!
In February, PCV Board Member Dr. Diana Barnard spearheaded an effort to confirm that an effective, lower-cost medication was available. She educated doctors and pharmacists about the specifics, thereby reducing the cost of the drugs to less than 20% of what was previously available. Family members have confirmed the ease and peaceful use of this new option.
In 2018, PCV’s Message Reached Thousands.
Our public outreach touched people across the State and the nation as we honored legislators in Montpelier on the Fifth Anniversary of Vermont’s End-of-Life Choice Law. An interview on VPR’s Vermont Edition, a 3-part feature on NBC’s Channel 5, numerous articles and public forums and the presentation of a one-act play on love, life and dying helped deliver our message.
Medical Community Education and Support:
Step-by-step, we are nurturing the medical community to make medical aid in dying simply another treatment option that doctors routinely discuss with patients nearing the end of life. This year PCV board members had leadership roles in five educational seminars for doctors, medical institutions and conferences. These were important opportunities for professionals to discuss and learn about patient counseling and Act 39. Based on our survey early in the year, over half the hospice organizations in Vermont have now conducted training sessions on medical aid in dying. PCV is frequently called upon for information by doctors and caregivers, as well as patients.
Legislative Leaders Educated:
PCV meets regularly with legislators who chair or serve on House and Senate committees that were vital to the passage of Act 39. We work to educate them on the value of Act 39 and the importance of end-of-life choice to their constituents in order to be prepared in case legal challenges emerge.
Vermont Continues to Have a National Influence:
This year, PCV board members have assisted advocates in other states and testified in New York and Hawaii. Vermont doctors were also influential in the recent policy shift of the American Academy of Family Physicians to a “neutral” stance on medical aid in dying. Each additional state that allows medical aid in dying builds greater support for end-of-life choice within the medical community.
PCV is continually protecting your right to have a choice!
As a community, PCV is successful because we all remain focused, persistent, and dedicated for the long term. We want you to know that every donation is deeply appreciated and carefully managed. Please mail a contribution to:
Patient Choices Vermont
P.O. Box 671
Shelburne, VT 05482
...or donate online where you will see a number of ways to give, including stock donations and gifts honoring people for whom end-of-life choice was important.
It takes almost $60,000 per year to keep Patient Choices Vermont operating!
We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so your contributions qualify as tax-deductible.
Please consider a donation of $60, $30 or if you are able, $125, $500, or $1,000.
As one supporter recently said, Act 39 allows us to replace fear and uncertainty with a sense of calm, greater peace and comfort near the end of life. Thank you.
Betsy J. Walkerman