win for patient rights
Vermont removes residency requirement for assisted suicide law
Vermont has become the first state to nix a residency requirement from its medically assisted death law to allow terminally ill people from out-of-state to take advantage of the offering. Gov. Phil Scot (R) signed a bill on Tuesday amending the decade-old law, which permits "doctors to prescribe life-ending medication to terminally ill people 18 or older," The New York Times reports.
The bill passed Vermont's Senate and House last month after Lynda Bluestein, a 75-year-old Connecticut resident with late-stage cancer, sued the state, arguing that the residency restriction was unconstitutional. As part of the settlement the state reached with Bluestine, Vermont waived the residency requirement for her.
Bluestein said the amendment means that other terminally ill people in the Northeast can take advantage of the law. "I'm thinking even more importantly that this is going to cause other states, the other jurisdictions that have medical aid in dying, to look at their residency requirement, too," she said, per The Associated Press.
Vermont is one of 10 states that have laws permitting medically assisted suicide. Oregon is the only other state that allows non-residents to seek life-ending care in the state after health authorities agreed to stop enforcing the residency restriction as part of a settlement in a similar lawsuit in 2022. "Critics of such laws say without the residency requirements, states risk becoming assisted suicide tourism destinations," AP adds.
Mary Hahn Beerworth, executive director of the Vermont Right to Life Committee, testified before a legislative committee earlier this year that the practice "was, and remains, a matter of contention."
"To be clear, Vermont Right to Life opposed the underlying concept behind assisted suicide and opposes the move to remove the residency requirement as there are still no safeguards that protect vulnerable patients from coercion," she said.