Opinion: Vermont’s end of life law is an example to be proud of

This week marks an important one-year anniversary of Vermont’s Act 39 — Patient Choice and Control at End of Life — becoming law. Citizens and legislators in our state worked for 10 years in an effort to ensure a right of choice for terminally ill patients.
My personal experience with my sister Nancy’s choice to hasten the end of her life under Oregon’s Death with Dignity law compelled me to work for this legislation in Vermont. I attended committee discussions and floor debates in the Vermont House and Senate. I testified at the public hearing in Montpelier, as well as before the House Human Services Committee. I appeared in radio and television spots. I was interviewed by reporters in Middlebury, Montpelier, Burlington, Montreal and Washington, D.C. I shared details of my sister’s journey and how our supportive family and friends accompanied her throughout. Hers was a beautiful death on a sunny spring day in Portland, Ore., five years ago.
The work of many, both those in favor of the legislation and those opposed, was accomplished through our state’s democratic process. The outcome has given all Vermonters an additional choice among those already available for end of life care.
In my view, the most important aspect of this law remains the overriding reality that each person should have the right of choice as to how their life may come to a reasonable and peaceful end. I believe this ability to choose is what we wish for those we love and most importantly, for our own selves.
Vermont’s actions have shown the way for others across our nation. An increased operative awareness of death, palliative care and use of hospice has been present. This law is not one of forcing an undesired action. This law’s process and safeguards are present for those who are terminally ill and choose to hasten the end of life.
The passage of this law reflects pure Vermont effort. It exists for the benefit of all. It brings comfort to those who are facing or already living with declining health.
I am proud to live in a state where citizens can exercise their legal right of choice.
Marnie Wood

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