Last week, two groups in Vermont filed a lawsuit against the Vermont Board of Medical Practice and the Office of Professional Regulation, who are interpreting a state law in such a way that forces Vermont doctors to counsel assisted suicide as an option.
The Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and Christian Medical & Dental Associations are standing together against this interpretation of Act 39, a 2013 physician-assisted suicide law which requires health care professionals to inform terminally ill patients about the option to commit suicide and make referrals to that end.
The Vermont Department of Health’s FAQ page on Act 39 provides the current interpretation in a question-answer format: “Do doctors have to tell patients about this option? Under Act 39 and the Patient’s Bill of Rights, a patient has the right to be informed of all options for care and treatment in order to make a fully-informed choice. If a doctor is unwilling to inform a patient, he or she must make a referral or otherwise arrange for the patient to receive all relevant information.”
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys are representing the plaintiffs. ADF Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden says that the doctors firmly believe that their suffering patients need “understanding and sound medical treatment, not encouragement to kill themselves.”
Mr. Aden alludes to lawsuits against Catholic hospitals that refuse to perform abortions, saying that this comes at a time when many religious medical professionals are being forced to act outside the tenants of their faith, and called it a “disturbing trend.”
“In this case, the conscientious objection to killing a patient is under the Hippocratic Oath and goes back thousands of years.” he says. “The government shouldn’t be telling health care professionals that they must violate their medical ethics in order to practice medicine.”