Vermont Doctor Who Euthanized Patient Wants Removed From Monitoring

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 6, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Vermont Doctor Who Euthanized Patient Wants Removed From Monitoring

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
August 6, 2004

Montpelier, VT ( — Dr. Lloyd Thompson, former head of the Vermont Medical Society, has asked the Medical Practice Board to cease monitoring his care of terminally ill patients, just over a year after he was reprimanded for ending the life of an elderly patient without her express consent or that of her family.

In August 2002, Thompson administered the drug Norcuron to an 85-year-old patient with a respiratory disease. While she had requested that no heroic efforts be taken to prolong her life, she had not requested the lethal dose.

The Medical Practice Board reprimanded Thompson, in July 2003. He later apologized to the woman’s family and his colleagues and resigned as the president of the Vermont Medical Society.

While Thompson was allowed to continue to practice medicine, his terminally ill patients have been monitored and quarterly reports sent to the board. He was also ordered to "prepare and record a written treatment plan" for such patients and prohibited from using Norcuron.

Thompson is now asking that those requirements be lifted.

"Dr. Thompson has fully complied with all conditions and requirements of the agreement," wrote Ritchie Berger, Thompson’s lawyer, in a request to the board dated June 17. "He has maintained his medical practice and his dedicated service to the population of the Northeast Kingdom."

The Medical Practice Board is expected to decide on Thompson’s request in the near future.

In the debate on assisted suicide that took place during the Vermont legislature’s last session, several groups, including the Vermont Medical Association, opposed legislation legalizing assisted suicide in Vermont.

Vermont Governor Jim Douglas (R) made it clear he does not support the legislation, and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee stated earlier this year he does not want to take up such a controversial issue if it’s not likely to become law.

The proposed legislation that would have legalized assisted suicide in Vermont was modeled on Oregon’s 1994 "Death with Dignity Act."

The Vermont legislative research office has been asked by 78 state legislators to investigate the impact of Oregon’s assisted suicide law, and research the arguments for and against the legalization of the practice before the next legislative session.