Vermont Doctors Forced to Help Patients Kill Themselves

News: US News
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  July 22, 2016   

Doctors are suing the state for the right not to participate in assisted suicide

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BURLINGTON ( - Vermont doctors are suing the state to defend their right not to kill their patients.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys, representing conscientious state physicians, filed a lawsuit Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, located in Burlington.

Steven H. Aden, ADF Senior Counsel, said in a press release Wednesday,

These doctors and other health care workers deeply believe that suffering patients need understanding and sound medical treatment, not encouragement to kill themselves. The state has no authority to order them to act contrary to that sincere and time-honored conviction.

The lawsuit is against officials of the Vermont Board of Medical Practice and the Office of Professional Regulation who are saying Vermont doctors must by law counsel patients about their option to physician assisted suicide. The counseling must include referring the patient to a physician who would assist the patient by prescribing the lethal dose of medication for the patient to self-administer.

Vermont passed an assisted suicide law in 2013 called The Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act (Act 39). At issue is seemingly contradictory readings of this bill. The Vermont Department of Health website explains Act 39 legislation with specific questions and answers that are seemingly contradictory.

To the question "Are all doctors, nurses and pharmacists required to participate in Act 39?" The answer provided on the state website is: "No. Participation by any healthcare professional is completely voluntary."

But to the question "Do doctors have to tell patients about this option?" The state-supplied answer is:

Under Act 39 and the Patient's Bill of Rights, a patient has the right to be informed of all options for care and treatment in order to make a fully informed choice. If a doctor is unwilling to inform a patient, he or she must make a referral or otherwise arrange for the patient to receive all relevant information.

To the state's framed question "How does the law work?" The state answers: "Every step must be voluntary by both the patient and the physician."

In spite of the state's claimthat participation in the assisted suicide bill is voluntary on the part of physicians, it nevertheless is requiring physicians to counsel patients in the possibilities of assisted suicide and make referrals to doctors who will help them commit suicide. This is the type of participation conscientious doctors are saying they cannot do.


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