By Guy Page
Over a recent two-year period, 29 people died in Vermont after receiving a lethal prescription per Act 39, the 2013 law legalizing physician-prescribed death, according to a legally-required Dec. 2 Vermont Dept. of Health report.
There were 29 total “events” (deaths following a lethal prescription) reported between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2021.The events fell into the following underlying diagnoses groups:
• 72% were due to cancer (21 total cases);
• 7% were due to ALS (2 total cases);
• 10% were due to Neurodegenerative Disorders (3 total cases); and
• 10% were due to other events (3 total cases).
All 29 events have a death certificate on file with the Vital Records’ Office. All of the death certificates listed the underlying disease as the cause of death, and ‘natural’ as the manner of death. This means that this report will contain no information that could be used to potentially identify any patients or health care providers, the Dept. of Health said.
Among the 29 confirmed deaths, the mechanism was:
• 17 utilized the patient choice prescription (59%)
• 10 died from the underlying disease (34%)
• 1 other (3%)
• 1 unknown (3%)
From May 31, 2013, until June 30, 2021, there have been 116 events, the DOH report said. The events fell into the following underlying diagnoses groups:
• 89 (77%) were due to cancer
• 13 (11%) were due to ALS
• 6 (5%) were due to Neurodegenerative conditions
• 8 (7%) were due to other events
The Department of Health used the Vermont Prescription Monitoring System (VPMS) to identify patients that had filled a prescription under the law. The Department positively identified 21 out of the 29 deceased cases as having filled a prescription under the law. There are a variety of reasons that might account for the remainder of the prescriptions not being present in VPMS, including those that were not filled or were filled out of state, DOH said.