Deaths related to Patient Choice and Control at End of Life

Patient Choice and Control at End of Life, often referred to as Death with Dignity, 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. 18 V.S.A. Chapter 113 (Act 39 of the 2013 General Assembly).

Certification of Death

A patient with a terminal disease, who has chosen to end their life and has followed all the provisions outlined in 18 V.S.A. Chapter 113, should be certified as a Natural manner of death, with the cause listed as the underlying terminal disease.

Example:  A patient dying of metastatic prostate cancer, who follows the provisions of 18 V.S.A. Chapter 113.

There is no medical or epidemiological reason to list the terminal mechanism of respiratory failure due to the medication overdose.

Discussion

When a patient chooses to use this option both patient and doctors are required to follow specific steps laid out in 18 V.S.A. Chapter 113 to be eligible. The statute requires a thoughtful and well-defined process. Such eligible patients are not committing suicide under the statute, they are choosing a last medical treatment for their disease. Thus, it is that disease which is the underlying cause of the death.

Return to Top