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Vermont SAID

The Vermont Study of Aid-in-Dying (Vermont SAID) investigates the implementation and cultural impact of Vermont’s “Patient Choice and Control at End of Life” Act (Act 39), enacted in May 2013. Due to the recent enactment of Act 39, and Vermont’s small size and the geographic proximity of key institutions, Vermont offers an unparalleled setting for documenting emergent responses to the law across multiple sites and actors (e.g. patients, caregivers, medical providers and administrators, activists, legislators). The study will yield descriptive information about how the legalization of assisted dying affects death, dying, and end-of-life care. It will also describe ethical challenges that assisted dying raises for clinical communication about end-of-life care and the patient-provider relationship. Ultimately, the goal of the study is to 1) provide information that can be used to enhance end-of-life communication and policymaking, and 2) contribute to anthropological understandings of the biomedical management of death.

Research Team

Dr. Mara Buchbinder is the Principal Investigator on the project and a medical anthropologist specializing in the culture of medicine in the United States. Her recent work has explored how patients, families, and healthcare providers navigate social and ethical challenges raised by new developments in medical technology, public health policy, and law. She is especially interested in the role of language in medicine and in the relationships among patients, families, and clinicians in managing illness and healthcare. Dr. Buchbinder is an Associate Professor in the UNC Department of Social Medicine and core faculty in the UNC Center for Bioethics.

Dragana Lassiter is the study research assistant and a PhD candidate in the UNC Department of Anthropology.

Study Participation

Over the past two years, Dr. Buchbinder has interviewed 78 clinicians, advocates and legislators, and family members/caregivers. In addition to these groups, we would also like to understand the perspectives of people who have been diagnosed with a serious or life-threatening medical condition. We hope to capture a variety of perspectives on the issue, including the voices of patients on either side of the debate, as well as those who don’t have a strong stance or don’t feel affected by the law. Interviews are typically an hour long and include questions about: your background, perspectives on the law, and ideas about what constitutes a good death. The study will run through the end of 2017. If you would like to participate, we would love to hear from you! (

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who is funding the study?
    The study has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Greenwall Foundation.
  • Should I expect any benefits from participating in the study?
    There is no financial compensation for participating in the study. However, sharing your perspectives and experiences might help advance the conversation about aid-in-dying in Vermont.
  • What does participation entail?
    Participation entails an hour long recorded interview at an agreed-upon location.
  • How will my privacy be protected?
    Once we transcribe the interviews, all personal information is removed. This generally includes all personal names, institution names, and names of towns and other geographical landmarks. We also work hard to remove any contextual information that could be identifying, such as one’s unique professional role or position within an institution.
  • What is your stance on physician aid-in-dying?
    We do not advocate for or against aid-in-dying. Instead, we are interested in the way legislating AID shapes end-of-life care and cultural perceptions of death and dying.


Mara Buchbinder, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Social Medicine
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
333 S. Columbia Street
341A MacNider Hall
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7240

phone: 216.402.0498


Project Website