The newspaper Seven Days has written about two Vermont women known to have accessed Act 39 and self-administered the aid-in-dying prescription it authorizes. Most recently, they wrote about the woman believed to be the first Vermonter to use the end-of-life law.
The story explains that Annette Vachon, a retired small business owner, was diagnosed at age 64 with stage IV terminal lung cancer, but radiation treatments did not slow its progress. So Vachon set about obtaining an aid-in-dying prescription from her doctor. He friend, Meg Harris, told Seven Days what happened next:
By October, she knew her time was short, Harris said. Morphine was not controlling the pain and was making her occasionally delusional.
Harris picked up the prescription for her on a Thursday. Just having the drugs in the house, she said, made Vachon feel more at peace. “It was interesting to see how much that changed for her,” Harris said. “Her only goal was to do this with dignity and humor.”
Harris came forward with the story of her friend, Annette, after reading the lengthy January profile of another Vermont woman who had accessed Act 39 named Maggie Lake.
After nine years of battling cancer — including two stem-cell transplants, chemotherapy and radiation — Lake had come to the end of her fight.
Maggie Lake’s story was told by her sister, Katy Lesser.
Lying in bed at her Putney home as day turned to evening, the 60-year-old took the lethal dose of drugs she’d been prescribed weeks earlier. She urged her family to coach her through it as she swallowed the combination of pills and liquids.
“We sat with her. We talked to her. We talked to each other. We reminisced. We laughed. We cried,” Lesser said.
More information about Vermont’s End-of-Life Choice Law is available here.