The Vermont Medical Society (VMS) recently became the eighth state medical association — the ninth if one counts the group for Washington, DC — to depart from the profession’s long-standing opposition to physician-assisted dying.
The VMS was playing catch-up with state lawmakers. In 2013, the Vermont legislature passed a “death with dignity” bill that allows a physician to prescribe a lethal dose of narcotic to a terminally ill patient who requests it. VMS opposed the bill at that time because it held that there should be no law either banning or permitting physician-assisted death, also called medical aid in dying, assisted dying, and physician-assisted suicide, a term deemed misleading and pejorative by proponents of the practice.
Four other states — California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — along with the District of Columbia have enacted legislation like Vermont’s. Physician-assisted dying is also legal in Montana by virtue of a state supreme court ruling.