Federal Judge Upholds Vermont's End-of-Life Law | Off Message

Federal Judge Upholds Vermont's End-of-Life Law


Senators reaffirm the state’s end-of-life law in 2015. - FILE: TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Senators reaffirm the state’s end-of-life law in 2015.
A federal judge this week dismissed a legal challenge of Vermont’s 2013 end-of-life law that allows terminally ill patients to seek a lethal dose of medication to hasten their deaths.

U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford ruled that two medical organizations failed to show that their members — two doctors, a nurse and a pharmacist who oppose the law for religious and ethical reasons — faced any harm.

“Plaintiffs do not claim that any disciplinary action has been taken against their members,” Crawford wrote in his Wednesday ruling. “There is no credible threat of prosecution of Plaintiff’s members by Vermont’s medical regulators.”

The Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and the Tennessee-based Christian Medical & Dental Associations filed the lawsuit in federal court last year.

Under the law, medical professionals aren’t required to write a lethal prescription but are obligated to alert eligible patients of the option — as they are of all available medical options. Doctors who object to the law can refer patients to the information elsewhere. In court, the state Attorney General’s Office allowed that such a referral could simply be a website, Crawford noted.

“The court concludes that Plaintiffs lack jurisdictional standing to challenge the constitutionality of Act 39 in the absence of any likelihood of harm,” Crawford wrote.

Guy Page, advocacy director for the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, said his organization is considering appealing the case to a higher court.

“Court cases like this don’t necessarily end with one judge’s decision,” he said.

Read the full decision here: