Vermont's End-Of-Life Law, 4 Years On

Jan 15, 2018

It's been four years since Vermont started allowing terminally ill patients to seek the help of a doctor to end their own lives. We're looking at how patient choice at the end of life is working in our state, and how Vermonters have used the program since it began in 2013.

Twenty-nine Vermonters have used medical aid to hasten their own death since the passage of the law, according to a report from the state Department of Health. In all, 52 cases met the legal criteria of the state's "Patient Choice at End of Life" law, often referred to as Act 39. Forty-three of those were terminal cancer cases, and seven were advanced cases of ALS, sometimes called Lou Gehrig's Disease. 

Betsy Walkerman, president of Patients Choice Vermont, joins the program to discuss how Act 39 has been utilized in Vermont, and what she hears from people choosing this method of end-of-life care. And Ed Paquin with the Vermont Coalition on Disability Rights shares his concerns about the law, especially as it pertains to perceptions of people with disabilities.

Also joining the program is Dr. Robert Tortolani, a retired physician and a former president of the Vermont Medical Society, to discuss how physicians talk to their patients about this issue, and why the society dropped its formal opposition to the law in November.

We'll also hear from Vermont performer Rob Mermin, who shares his story of helping his friend Bill Morancy hasten the end of his life in 2015.

Broadcast Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.