Monitoring how Act 39 works for Vermonters who want to consider medical aid in dying is a key mission at Patient Choices Vermont (PCV). In recent emails we have discussed some of the challenges they face, especially in connection with the law's approval process. As Dee Allen, a recent recipient of medical aid in dying, says:
“The timeline requirements can make it so that you don’t have access to the law.”
Following a comprehensive review over the past nine months, PCV shared our findings with key legislators who have now introduced S.74 to modify Act 39 in important ways. The amendment would:
These improvements can be achieved while retaining the comprehensive system of strong safeguards already in place under Act 39.
Please see our Act 39 and S.74 Summary for a greater explanation.
To bring real lives into the picture, we have completed another short video. Many thanks to Dee Allen and her family for sharing her story just a few days before she died in December, 2020.
If you haven't yet seen the 5-minute video of Karen Oelschlaeger, please spend a few minutes to watch it as well on the Videos Page of our website.
Thank you as always for your interest and support. As Dee Allen says in our new video,
“The gift is that I get to go out while I can still tell my children that I love them.”
Your support helps make the creation of these poignant videos and all of PCV’s work possible. At a time when the legislature and much of the medical system are working hard via remote meetings, all of our best communication skills are needed to inform and provide a true sense of how aid in dying is having a profound impact on Vermonter’s lives.
Betsy Walkerman, President
Patient Choices Vermont
“I was suffering constantly…I cannot emphasize enough how much of a relief it has been to just have those medications in my possession.” - Karen Oelschlaeger, 36 year-old Vermonter suffering from stomach cancer who has qualified to use Act 39
Many thanks to Karen Oelschlaeger for so openly and articulately sharing her story. As we begin to update legislators on how Act 39 is working, stories like this one are very powerful. In addition to describing how grateful she is for the option of medical aid in dying, Karen illustrates how challenging it was for her to work through the process required by Act 39. She was especially challenged by the provision in the law that requires that both oral requests to the physician be made “in the physical presence” of the doctor, as opposed to through telemedicine, at a time when she was physically so debilitated.
Please, take a few minutes to watch "Karen’s Story" below and
our entire collection of videos in PCV's Living While Leaving Series.
Do you have a story to share?
If you are considering using medical aid in dying or have attended the death of someone who has, and if you would like to share your story, please contact us. We would be happy to discuss the possibilities.
Welcome new PCV Board Members…
PCV is pleased to welcome former Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman to the PCV Advisory Board. David was the first legislator in 1998 to introduce an aid-in-dying bill in Vermont. He worked steadily along with many Vermonters to bring Act 39 to fruition in 2013. As David commented, “Every time I hear an aid in dying story it gives me pause to reflect that I have helped people in a very profound and intimate way...even if at the end of their lives.”
PCV is also pleased to welcome David Otto to the Board of Directors. David is the founding CEO of Otto & Associates, a holistic financial planning firm. He has previously worked as a pastor and pastoral counselor. We appreciate both his business perspective and his deep counseling experience.
Thank you to all those who generously contributed to PCV with yearend donations. We appreciate your confidence and shared sense of mission. If you missed making a yearend contribution, please consider one now. Your funds will help us creatively and sensitively communicate how deeply important end-of-life choice is to all of us.
We were drawn to this classic covered bridge as a symbol of the beauty around us, our resilience as a community, and the importance of pausing now and then to remember what’s important. I’d especially like to thank local artist David Goodrich for donating use of the artwork. You can see more of his silkscreen prints and custom artwork at his website GoodrichInk.com. And thanks to Jonathan Crocker for composing the accompanying poem.
It has been quite an emotional week at Patient Choices Vermont, as we have just recorded the stories of two people who are planning to use medical aid in dying very soon. Their reflections are deeply moving and provide valuable feedback on how the process of medical aid in dying is working for patients. One of them told me, "I am preparing to go out in the most gentle way possible... while I can still tell my children that I love them.” It was also helpful to hear from her that our website's page How to Talk to Your Doctor helped her respectfully yet directly state her wishes to her physician and navigate a crucial part of the Act 39 process.
Your support helps make it possible to for us collect and share these stories as sensitive video presentations. We hope that that others may learn from their experience, as we have.
Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to PCV this year. If you have not yet made a donation in 2020, please consider what end-of-life choice means to you.
With warm wishes for a joyful and peaceful holiday season,
Betsy Walkerman, President
Patient Choices Vermont
PCV Board Member Dr. Diana Barnard Named Associate Professor at UVM - Help Us Celebrate by Signing Below
PCV Board Member Dr. Diana Barnard has been named Associate Professor at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine, UVM.
Congratulations are in order to Dr. Barnard on her promotion to Associate Professor at UVM’s Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine. Dr. Barnard has served on the board of Patient Choices Vermont for more than 15 years. She has worked persistently to educate legislators and the public about medical aid in dying, palliative care and hospice, all of which were critical to the ultimate passage of Vermont’s Act 39 in 2013.
Photo by Carolyn Bates
During the early years of the PCV campaign, she spent many days in public hearings, and provided the key practicing physician’s voice on our board to shape the language, presentation, and specifics of the law. In the Vermont hearings Dr. Barnard’s testimony was so clear and direct that she was recruited by the national organization Compassion & Choices to testify in New York, Hawaii (successful passage) and Alaska based on her experience with end-of-life medical practice and Vermont’s Act 39. She was also recruited to appear in training videos that are part of Compassion & Choices Doc-to-Doc program.
Since the passage of Act 39, Dr. Barnard has focused on education of the public and doctors in Vermont. Each year she has given both formal and informal educational sessions at hospitals, for medical groups, for hospice organizations and at conferences. As PCV’s primary doctor “on call,” she responds to requests from other Vermont doctors for coaching on how to navigate Act 39 discussions, and is Vermont’s resident expert on medical assessments, medications and instructions in connection with medical aid in dying. She is a strong educator, representing the medical profession, and always putting the patient first.