Kim Callinan for the New York Times: “Vermont Removes Residency Requirement for Medically Assisted Deaths”

May 3, 2023

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Vermont has become the first state to remove a residency requirement from its law on medically assisted death to allow terminally ill people from out of state access to life-ending care.

The law, which for a decade has permitted doctors to prescribe life-ending medication to terminally ill people 18 or older, was amended Tuesday, when Gov. Phil Scott signed a bill scrapping the residency requirement.

The measure passed Vermont’s Senate and House last month following a legal battle brought against the state by a 75-year-old resident of Bridgeport, Conn., who has late-stage fallopian tube cancer and argued that Vermont’s restriction was unconstitutional. The state waived the residency requirement for the woman, Lynda Bluestein, as part of a settlement in March.

“I was always hoping that the Legislature would change the law and make it open to everyone,” Ms. Bluestein said by phone on Tuesday. “I was really thrilled.”

While Vermont is the first state to formally remove the residency requirement from its medically assisted suicide law, Oregon health authorities agreed in 2022 to stop enforcing its residency provision as part of a settlement in a similar federal lawsuit. A bill seeking to remove the requirement has since passed Oregon’s House. The state was the first to pass a medical aid in dying law, which took effect in 1997.

Several other states and the District of Columbia allow terminally ill residents access to life-ending treatments, but most do not permit nonresidents to access their care.

Advocates for improving end-of-life care said on Tuesday that they hoped other states would follow Vermont in allowing people to cross state lines to end their lives with dignity.

“Support for this is widespread and bipartisan,” said Kimberly Callinan, the chief executive of Compassion & Choices, an advocacy group that supports expanding access to end-of-life medication. “People universally want to be able to make decisions over how they die.”

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