Wednesday June 26, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- The local hospital is one of a few medical centers that are opting out of the aid-in-dying law that was passed recently.

"We chose to exercise this option to give our health system the time necessary to fully evaluate the implications of the law for our facilities and to create the policies and procedures we might need to implement it," said Kevin Robinson, spokesman for Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.

The bill was passed with a provision that allows medical facilities to opt out of it. Robinson said the Southwestern Vermont Health Care Board of Trustees and the health system’s Medical Executive Committee voted in May to invoke the exemption rule.

SVHC is the parent company of the hospital as well as the Centers for Living and Rehabilitation. Physicians who work for SVHC will not be able to prescribe medication to patients who wish to end their lives with it, nor can it be given to patients while at the hospital or the rehabilitation center.

"The law is very detailed, requiring documentation on the part of the physician," Robinson said. The hospital has yet to develop procedures and protocols for complying with the law.

"SVHC is also actively engaged with health care providers and professional societies across Vermont to evaluate the law and create recommendations for how to implement it within an health care environment," he wrote in an email.


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He said physicians who do not work at or for the hospital are not affected by the health system’s decision. The criteria for patients wanting to make use of it are quite specific, he said, and there is no way to tell how many SVHC patients might wish to use it.

The Brattleboro Reformer reports that Brattleboro Memorial Hospital has also chosen to make use of the exemption for similar reasons as that of SVHC, and according to the Burlington Free Press, most of the state’s hospitals are expected to use the exemption rule. That paper reported in May that Fletcher Allen Health Care, the state’s largest hospital, has also opted out of the law.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.