Diana Barnard MD and Jaina Clough MD spoke to a standing-room-only crowd on the topic of “Act 39, MAID in Vermont: A Clinician Update” at UVM Medical Center’s Davis Auditorium on February 28. 2020.
Nearly 200 physicians and other medical staff from the UVM Health Network arrived to hear their two colleagues present “Grand Rounds.”
Dr. Barnard and Dr. Clough reviewed national trends, state data, and practical clinical information on the topic of medical-aid-in-dying (MAID), including evolving drug protocols and available pharmacies. The current number of people in Vermont who have requested and qualified for the terminal prescription since 2013 when Act 39 became law, is 87. The majority of those individuals suffered from cancer.
Dr. Barnard, who attended the first ever National Clinicians’ Conference on MAID in California in February, reported on the clinical experience and research on medications occurring across the country. The conference concluded by moving forward with the establishment of the "National Academy of MAID," which will work to promote excellence in end-of-life care including promoting education and collaboration around MAID. While it is not yet fully formalized, Dr. Barnard will serve on what will most likely be called the Academy's Development and Advisory Committee.
Dr. Clough recognized local authors Kara K Landry MD, Janet Ely APRN, and Alissa Thomas MD for publication of their article, “Experience and Attitudes Regarding Medical Aid in Dying, Act 39, Among Vermont Specialty Practices”. The article appeared in the Journal of Palliative Medicine, October 2019 and substantiated the position that MDs want more information on the topic.
Following their presentation of factual information, the duo turned their attention to how physicians respond to patient requests for MAID and role-played various scenarios for the appreciative audience. The number of questions and comments generated by this activity suggests that physicians consider MAID a topic worthy of ongoing discussion and learning. While no physician is required to participate in Act 39, it is comforting to know that facts and understanding will inform that decision.
The number of medical professionals attending represents a big increase from previous workshops, signaling improvement in future access to knowledgeable doctors for patients seeking to explore medical aid in dying.
Dr. Clough, is board certified in both Internal Medicine, and as a Hospice Medical Director. Dr. Barnard is a Family Practice doctor, board certified in both Hospice and Palliative Care, and also as a Hospice Medical Director.