PCV files motion asking Court to strike Consent Agreement from the record...

Patient Choices Vermont (PCV) and Compassion & Choices (C&C) today filed a motion to strike from the court record the state's consent agreement with physician plaintiffs in a dismissed federal lawsuit that sought to limit information provided to patients under Vermont's End of Life Choice law (Act 39). 

This is the latest step PCV is taking to help ensure that Vermonters facing difficult end-of-life decisions can learn about Act 39 from their doctors. ( See press release.)

A year ago, two religious organizations sued the state in federal court claiming that their doctors should not have to discuss Act 39 with patients. The case was dismissed last spring. In his dismissal, Judge Crawford concluded that Vermont laws remain in effect and continue "to govern physicians in all aspects of their care of the terminally ill. Under these provisions, physicians must inform patients about all choices and options relevant to their medical treatment."

Shortly thereafter, the state and the plaintiffs signed a consent agreement attempting to define the responsibilities of doctors which in our opinion, was inaccurate and would create confusion for patients and medical providers. The plaintiffs filed this consent agreement with the federal court without notifying the state's Attorney General, PCV and C&C, all of whom are parties to the case.

That is why we filed a motion this morning asking the Court to strike the consent agreement from the record.

In addition, PCV and C&C sought and received from the Attorney General a written clarification of the consent agreement, which assured our organizations that "Nothing in the Consent Agreement gives up any legal rights of patients" and "patients have a right to receive relevant information about all their health care options." The Attorney General's letter also confirmed that new language was posted on the Department of Health website as follows:

Are doctors required to tell patients about this medical aid in dying?

Patients have a right to receive relevant information about all their health care options, including medical aid in dying under Act 39. A doctor may choose not to participate in the Act 39 process for reasons including a religious or philosophical objection or based on the doctor's professional judgment. If a patient asks about receiving aid in dying, the doctor must either inform the patient about the Act 39 option directly, or make a referral or otherwise ensure that the patient is able to obtain and understand relevant and accurate information about the aid-in-dying process under the Act.

Many Vermonters do not know about our End of Life Choice law and rely on their doctors to inform them of all their options for treatment and care near the end of life. Although Act 39 allows a doctor not to actually prescribe aid-in-dying medication, together with Vermont's Patient Bill of Rights Law, it does require that patients be fully informed in order to make their decisions. PCV is dedicated to continued advocacy to protect patients' rights to know.

Education remains paramount. The more that our citizens know and ask about Act 39, the more the medical community will become educated and prepared to assist.

We sincerely appreciate your continued support, and thank the hundreds of people who donated to PCV this past spring and summer. If you have not given a donation recently, please consider lending a hand in helping us defend your rights and educate fellow Vermonters.


Betsy J. Walkerman

Contributions are gratefully received online through Paypal or by check mailed to:

Patient Choices Vermont
PO Box 671
Shelburne, VT 05482

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