Vermont made history last month when its legislature became the first to authorize access to aid in dying. “Gov. Peter Shumlin and Vermont legislators have shattered a barrier by becoming the first politicians to show the courage to enact a death-with-dignity law,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee about the impactful win. Vermont is now the fourth state to affirmatively allow physician aid in dying and the first in the East. Oregon and Washington both sanctioned the practice through ballot initiatives, while Montana affirmed this option for the terminally ill via a state Supreme Court ruling in Compassion & Choices’ Baxter v. Montana case.
The Vermont bill is also unique in that it starts with rigorous requirements similar to the Oregon and Washington laws, including mandates for waiting periods, second opinions and extensive physician reporting. But after three years it transitions to a model governed by best practice standards, as in Montana. “Professional practice standards guide all of medicine, and it is appropriate for aid in dying to be governed in this manner,” explained Compassion & Choices Legal Affairs Director Kathryn Tucker, who testified before both the Vermont House and Senate in favor of the bill and also served as lead counsel in the Baxter case. More