MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Thirty-four people took advantage of Vermont’s aid-in-dying law in the most recent two-year period studied by the state, according to a report released by the Vermont Department of Health.
The report, which was submitted to the Legislature this week, covered the two years ending June 30. It found that of the 34 cases, 24 were from people with cancer; four had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease; three had other degenerative neurological diseases; and three were due to other events.
Of the 34 people, 28 hastened their deaths using a drug prescription; five died of the underlying disease without taking a prescribed aid-in-dying drug; and the mechanism of death in one case was unknown, the report said.
The death certificates for the 34 people are on file at the Health Department and, following state law, all list the underlying disease as the cause of death.
Since Vermont’s law, known formally as the Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act, passed in 2013, the law has been used 87 times.
In 2013, Vermont became the first state whose Legislature passed an aid-in-dying option for terminally ill patients. In 2015, the law was updated to require the Health Department to release a report every other year with statistics on how many people used the law.
Under the terms of the law, Vermont residents are eligible to use help end their lives if they have a terminal, incurable illness that is expected to kill them within six months.
Once that determination has been made, the patient may ask his or her physician for a prescription for a medication that would hasten death. The process requires both oral and written requests, witnesses and the second opinion from another physician.
Physicians and pharmacists are not required to participate in the process.