Clarifying reporting on the Patient Choice at End of Life law


Saturday June 29, 2013

As you reported on June 26, Southwestern Vermont Health Care has joined most Vermont hospitals in choosing to exercise the option to opt out of the Patient Choice at End of Life law (S.77).

The bill was passed by the legislature, signed by the governor and is now in effect. An exception clause in the legislation permits healthcare organizations to limit the practice in their facility.

Specifically, the law states:

"§ HEALTH CARE FACILITY EXCEPTION: A health care facility may prohibit a physician from writing a prescription for a dose of medication intended to be lethal for a patient who is a resident in its facility and intends to use the medication on the facility’s premises, provided the facility has notified the physician in writing of its policy."

SVHC has chosen to enact this Health Care Facility Exception based on input from the Medical Executive Committee, the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Putnam Board of Governors, and the SVHC Board of Directors. The exception applies to all SVHC institutional entities.

Most hospitals in Vermont have exercised the exception, recognizing the need to better understand the law, determine how it relates to their facility and staff, and develop procedures to ensure compliance. Physicians and others from SVHC, Dartmouth-Hitchcock and professional organizations representing medical practitioners across the state are currently reviewing the legislation.

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Southwestern Vermont Health Care has a well-respected integrated hospice program that continues to provide end-of-life comfort care for patients throughout the region.

Thank you for the opportunity to update your readers on the response of SVHC to the Patient Choice at End of Life law.


Chief medical officer,

site medical director,

Emergency physician


President, SVHC Medical Staff


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