In italics below is an op-ed published in the Bennington Banner on June 29, 2013: (http://www.benningtonbanner.com/opinion/ci_23564325/clarifying-reporting-patient-choice-at-end-life-law.html).
Because Southwestern Vermont Medical Center is a subsidiary of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital, it is signed by the Chief Medical Officers of both hospitals. The opt-out applies to all facilities operated under the auspices of SVMC.
While SVMC’s decision is good news, we must never forget that the exemption offered by the law is a limited one, that will have little effect on the freedom of a doctor to write a lethal prescription. The doctor can even write the prescription within the facility, then discharge the patient to die at home. He can certainly discuss assisted suicide with a hospitalized patient. This is very bad news, especially in the light of the fact that “hospitalists” take care of most hospitalized patients. These doctors are employees of the hospital. They do not know the patients as their regular physicians do. The law does not even require the patient’s regular doctor to be notified that he has received a lethal prescription.
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.
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,
WILLIAM SARCHINO, DPM
President, SVHC Medical Staff