"Euthanasia Doc" Urged to Quit as Vermont Med. Society President

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 20, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

"Euthanasia Doc" Urged to Quit as Vermont Med. Society President

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
July 20, 2003

Randolph, VT (LifeNews.com) — A Vermont doctor took a woman’s request for no heroic measures to the extreme by allegedly euthanizing her. Now, some Vermont leaders want to resign as the head of the state medical society.

Dr. Lloyd Thompson ended the life of his patient last August. The patient was an 85 year-old woman who had signed a written document requesting that no extraordinary measures be taken to preserve her life in the event of a terminal illness. She also requested that end of life treatment be designed for her care and comfort.

Thompson took a series of steps to wean his patient from the ventilator and made her, according to official accounts, "comfortable, sedate and not in any apparent distress." He then admits administering a dose of Norcuron, a paralytic drug, that in no way was related to treating the patient’s pain. The patient died within minutes of the injection.

Though neither the patient nor her family ask him to hasten her death, Thompson faces no charges. The state’s Medical Practice Board gave him only a sleight reprimand.

Now some want him to resign as president of the Vermont Medical Society.

"Thompson must step aside … if he is to salvage Vermonters’ confidence in the Medical Society," the Burlington Free Press wrote in a recent editorial. "Although issues involving end-of-life care are complex and multi-layered, the matter of whether Thompson should resign as leader of the Medical Society is unequivocal."

Mary Beerworth, the executive director of the Vermont Right to Life Committee, agreed that more should be done in the Thompson case.

"Dr. Thompson has merely been reprimanded for his actions by the VT Medical Practice Board and the Attorney General has refused to press charges," Beerworth told LifeNews.com. "Vermont Right to Life believes that it would have been appropriate to suspend or revoked Dr. Thompson’s license in order to send a stronger signal that Vermont will not tolerate such actions."

Because of the light reprimand and Thompson’s refusal to step down, Beerworth worried there would be "similar abuses and that our elderly and terminally ill are in immediate and ongoing danger."

In his statement to the Medical Practice Board, Thompson said, "I should not have used Norcuron, and for that choice I am sorry."

The board’s ruling refers to the standard of care expected and states its opposition to the use of paralyzing drugs in end-of-life treatment.

"Patient pain is best treated with medications that produce actual comfort, not neuromuscular blocking agents, which produce only the appearance of comfort," the ruling said.

Beerworth told LifeNews.com, Thompson "is either extremely incompetent (which goes against his extensive resume) or he deliberately took steps to hasten the death of his patient against her express wishes and the wishes of her family."