- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 20, 2014

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - One year after Vermont became the first state to legislate an aid-in-dying option for terminally ill patients, supporters said Tuesday that the law is working the way it was intended, while opponents said they would continue to work for repeal.

Both supporters and opponents say two people have received prescriptions for the drug used in the aid-in-dying process. Both of the patients died of other causes before taking the medication.

“What’s happening here mirrors what happened in Oregon” when it passed by a public vote the nation’s first “death with dignity” law in 1994, said Vermont Rep. Linda Waite-Simpson, D-Essex, who is state coordinator for the group Compassion and Choices. “It’s not unexpected that we did not have a huge flood of people.”

Opponents of the law, meanwhile, said they would continue to work to repeal it.

“We expanded our educational role to become a place where our network of health care providers and other supporters would have a place to take their concerns,” said True Dignity spokesperson Carolyn McMurray, of Bennington.

Dick Walters, president of the Patient Choices-Vermont group that advocated for the law, said he was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. Walters, 89, said he’s going to fight the illness but takes comfort in knowing he has the option of controlling his own death if needed.

“I am not terminally ill. I’m not eligible to use the law,” Walters said. But if his illness worsened and that was the prognosis, “I have the peace of mind that I have choice as a Vermonter. It’s the whole question of choice and control at the end of life.”