A Growing Number of Terminally-‐Ill Vermonters Using the Law
End-of-life choice advocates today honored the three-year anniversary of Vermont’s Patient Choice at the End-of-Life law, which was signed into law by Governor Peter Shumlin on May 20, 2013. Known as Act 39, the law allows a terminally-ill, mentally competent Vermonter to voluntarily self-administer prescription medication to control the timing of their imminent passing.
“People all across the state are grateful for the leadership Vermont legislators have taken to provide comfort and peace of mind to those facing terminal illness and deeply personal end-of- life care decisions,” Betsy Walkerman, President of Patient Choices Vermont, said. “In their cards and emails, they tell me they feel empowered, and able to live life to the fullest even during their difficult final days, knowing that they have a measure of control to avoid prolonged suffering.”
Twenty-four prescriptions have been written under Act 39 in the past three years. Sixteen of them were written in the last year, showing a careful, steady utilization increase.
“Implementation of the end-of-life choice law is going well as more and more patients gain access to this end-of-life option,” according to Linda Waite-Simpson, the Compassion and Choices Vermont director. “I regularly consult with patients and medical providers interested in learning more about both Act 39 and all the other important end-of-life options so I have a really strong connection to the real world benefits of the law.” Compassion and Choices offers voluntary, private end-of-life option consultations to Vermonters and serves as a helpful resource to interested medical providers.
A milestone from the law’s third year in Vermont was the October 16, 2015 passing of Richard “Dick” Walters, founder and long-time President of Patient Choices Vermont. After a swift decline from lung cancer, Dick was grateful to be able to direct his own end-of-life under Act 39.