In some of her final words before using medical aid in dying, Karen Oelschlaeger made a powerful statement advocating for improvements to Vermont’s Act 39. Vermont Public Radio (VPR) reporter Howard Weiss-Tisman interviewed her about a week before she died. VPR's report, published on April 20, includes statements from PCV Board Member, Dr. Diana Barnard and PCV President, Betsy Walkerman.
(Click to read and listen)
Karen first contacted Patient Choices Vermont (PCV) last fall as she was navigating the Act 39 approval process with the hope that sharing her story would help others. She recorded her story in a video we produced and posted on our website a few months ago.
Karen was a prosecutor and advocate in the field of domestic violence. She loved spending time in the mountains and was strong, determined, and very grateful for Act 39. We mourn the loss of her commitment to service, her sharp wit, and her gentle nature.
We encourage you to help us let Karen’s family know how deeply meaningful and important it is that she continued to advocate for improvements to Vermont's Act 39 as long as she could. Please use our Contact Form to share your words, and we will compile all the messages to convey to her family on your behalf. You can also honor Karen by sharing the VPR story and the link to her video on the PCV website with your friends.
In these small ways, we can let her family know that Karen’s voice is making a difference.
NBC Channel 5 reports: Advocates propose three changes to Vermont's Aid in Dying law
Thank you to NBC Channel 5 for helping to bring medical-aid-in-dying stories to life. In this recent segment, they report on why Patient Choices Vermont (PCV) is proposing tune-ups to Act 39.
Among the changes proposed in Senate Bill 74 is an adjustment to the patient’s timeline so that dying people won’t have to wait an extra 48 hours before receiving their medication after already spending weeks at appointments, filing a written request, and obtaining confirmation by two doctors.
In the words of Duncan Allen-Burns (son of Dee Allen whose video is featured on PCV’s website)... “Those 48 hours were a nightmare. Just the sheer emotional toll it took on her [his mother] was so painful to watch... I couldn’t be more appreciative of Act 39 and the work that you are doing. My mom was passionate about it.”
Hospice Volunteers and Staff Learn about Medical Aid in Dying
This spring, PCV is sponsoring several educational events for hospice personnel. A few weeks ago, PCV Board Member Dr. Jaina Clough hosted more than 50 UVM Hospice volunteers on zoom. Participants discussed the special role of hospice workers in providing neutral, trusted support, both in the qualification process under Act 39 and in connection with medical aspects of the process.
Two more sessions will be hosted by PCV Board Chair, Toni Kaeding, MS RN, in April and May for hospice organizations in Rutland and Brattleboro.
Act 39 patients consistently tell us how much they value the comfort their hospice workers provide. Thank you to all the people and organizations that make that work possible.
Vermonters reflect on five-year anniversary of the state's Medical Aid in Dying law.
Tom Ozahowski, is shown walking on a wooded trail near his Thetford home. He made his career at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire where he worked with patients who often stared death in the face.
"People have cardiac arrests and have near death experiences that, it's not everybody, but some of them have had profound situations that have helped me," he said those situations have helped him find peace with his fate.
"I was diagnosed in 2008," Ozahowski said regarding his prostate cancer, which has spread to his bones. "I have no idea exactly whats in store."h
The one thing he does know is how he plans on dying.
"My sons are totally in agreement that I can use Medical Aid in Dying and get a prescription to be self-administered," he said.
Dr. Diana Barnard, with the University of Vermont Medical Center, would like to see more Dartmouth-Hitchcock doctors on board.
The palliative care specialist said most of her patients worry about losing their sense of control, something many wish to gain using Act 39.
"Most people that I talk to don't want to die. They want to live, but they are dying from their underlying illness and we cant stop that," Board Member Dr. Diana Barnard said.
In the past five years, the state's Department of Health said 52 people have qualified to utilize the law, but only 29 people have chosen to end their lives.
"The law itself was really carefully crafted and is working very well," said PCV President Betsy Walkerman, also featured in the story.
Click to Watch the Story...
Dr. Diana Barnard appearing before the New York State Legislature's hearings on medical aid in dying.