We are pleased to announce that Senate Bill 74 was signed by the Governor today, marking an important milestone for Vermonters who value end-of-life choice. This bill, passed with strong tri-partisan support, updates and improves the state’s Patient Choice at End of Life Law, Act 39.
With the passage of Senate Bill 74, a patient can now make the required requests for medical aid in dying by video telemedicine when their doctor determines that this approach is appropriate. The bill also eliminates the additional 48-hour delay at the end of the process before a patient can receive the prescription and corrects what was a technical deficiency in the immunity clause of Act 39.
It was the voices of people like Karen Oelschlaeger who had struggled through the Act 39 process that brought these issues to the attention of the legislature.
“My daughter, Karen Oelschlaeger would be pleased to know that by speaking about her experience with medical aid in dying she had a positive influence that will benefit future patients. Thank you to the Vermont legislature for passing S.74.” - Linda Oelschlaeger
PRESS RELEASE: Vermont House Gives Preliminary Approval to Bill to Improve 2013 Medical Aid-in-Dying Law
SB 74, already approved by Senate, would make three critical improvements to Act 39
(April 13, 2022 - Montpelier, VT) Patient Choices Vermont and Compassion & Choices praised the Vermont House of Representatives for their preliminary approval Thursday of Senate Bill 74 to update and improve the state’s 2013 Patient Choice at End of Life Law, Act 39. The Vermont Senate passed the bill on a voice vote on Jan. 25.
Act 39 gives terminally ill adults in Vermont, who are mentally capable of making their own decisions, the option to obtain a doctor’s prescription for aid-in-dying medication they can decide to self-administer to peacefully hasten their death, if they so choose. Participation in the law is completely voluntary for patients, physicians and pharmacists.
Vermont is among 10 states, as well as Washington, D.C., that have similar laws providing end-of-life choice for more than one out of five Americans (22%).
“On behalf of the many Vermonters who express their gratitude for Act 39, we thank the Vermont House for listening to the voices of terminally ill Vermonters,” says Betsy Walkerman, President of Patient Choices Vermont. “These improvements will make proper use of the law less onerous for dying people while keeping the safeguards strong.”
“Vermont lawmakers have reviewed the evidence and data from Vermont and the other authorized states and recognized that it’s time to eliminate unnecessary regulatory roadblocks that prevent some terminally ill people from accessing medical aid in dying,” said Kim Callinan, president and CEO of Compassion & Choices, the nation’s largest end-of-life care advocacy group. “As a result, more terminally ill Vermonters will be able to avoid needless suffering and die peacefully.”
The bill would improve the following three aspects of Act 39:
Dr. Diana Barnard says, “Tony Digiacomo, husband of Lynn Achee, a former patient of mine asked me to share her story in the hopes that other people would not have to suffer the delays and heartache that she did. The long Act 39 process caused her to miss the window for using medical aid in dying. Her husband Tony said she would be grateful to know that S.74 has been approved by both houses of the legislature.”
Patient Choices Vermont (PCV) is a non-profit organization focused on educating Vermonters about end-of-life choice and medical aid in dying. PatientChoices.org
Compassion & Choices is the nation's oldest and largest nonprofit organization working to expand and improve healthcare options for the end of life, with 450,000 supporters nationwide. For more information, visit: CompassionAndChoices.org
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Patricia A. González-Portillo