While assisted suicide and euthanasia have been hot topics in recent years, the federal government does not have assisted suicide laws on the books. Instead, those laws are handled at the state level. This is a brief summary of euthanasia laws in Vermont including the recently passed Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act.
In 1990 the U.S. Supreme Court did rule that patients or their designated health care agents may refuse life-preserving medical treatment, including feeding tubes. A health care agent is an individual named by the patient to make health care decisions on their behalf, usually through a durable power of attorney. Health care agents typically follow a patient's wishes laid out in a living will or "do not resuscitate" form.
While both physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia involve the use of lethal medications to deliberately end a patient's life, the key difference is in who acts to end the patient's life. In physician-assisted suicide, the patient must self-administer the medications provided by a physician. The patient decides whether and when to ingest the lethal medication. Euthanasia occurs when a third party administers medication or acts directly to end the patient's life. Euthanasia is illegal in every state, including Vermont.
Vermont Laws Allowing Physician-Assisted Suicide
The state's new "End of Life Choices" law allows doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication to terminally ill patients who wish to end their lives.
The law includes heightened safeguards including:
|Code Section||Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act|
|Euthanasia Legal?||Euthanasia is not condoned or authorized by Vermont law.|
|Physician-Assisted Suicide Legal?||Death by withdrawing or withholding life-sustaining treatment does not constitute suicide or homicide under the "End of Life Choices" law. Also provides Vermont residents with terminal disease the option to be prescribed a dose of medication to hasten the end of their life. This option requires the participation of a Vermont physician.|
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Vermont health care attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
For more information on laws relating to end-of-life decisions in Vermont, click on the links below to access additional resources. You can also find more information by reading more on the general topics relating to this issue, such as elder law, health care law, and estate planning. Finally, given the important and highly personal nature of this topic, you may want to consider consulting with or retaining an elder law or estate planning attorney to help ensure that your end-of-life decisions are made according to your wishes.
Research the Law
Vermont Euthanasia Laws: Related Resources
Contact a qualified attorney.