Vermont became the first state in the United States to allow terminally ill people from other states to use assisted suicide.
Republican Governor Phil Scott signed the bill that removes the residency requirement from Vermont’s Patient Choice and Control at the End of Life law.
"We are grateful to Vermont lawmakers for recognizing that a state border shouldn’t determine whether you die peacefully or in agony," says Kim Callinan, president/CEO of Compassion & Choices, a nonprofit advocacy organization that runs state campaigns to pass medical aid-in-dying laws across the nation.
"Patients routinely travel to other states to utilize the best healthcare options. There is no rational reason they shouldn’t be able to travel to another state to access medical aid in dying if the state they live in doesn’t offer it."
Earlier this year, Vermont reached a settlement in a federal lawsuit asserting that the residency requirement in the state’s assisted suicide law violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal treatment. Lynda Bluestein, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, is a Connecticut resident with stage III fallopian tube cancer. She now may use Vermont’s law to receive assisted suicide.
According to Vermont’s Medical Aid in Dying law passed in 2013, the patient qualifies for assisted suicide if they are 18 and older and have a terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less to live. In addition, the patient has to be capable of making their own healthcare decisions, including making an informed and voluntary request to their physician. The patient also has to be able to self-administer the medication.
Vermont is among ten U.S. states that allow assisted suicide. These are California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. Additional ten states will consider death with dignity this year.
Support for assisted suicide in the U.S. has increased in the last two decades. Fifty-five percent of Americans said doctor-assisted suicide was morally acceptable in 2022, while 3% said it depends on the situation.
- Office of Governor Phil Scott. Action Taken by Governor Scott on Bills During the 2023 Legislative Session.
- Compassion & Choices. Advocates Praise Vermont Legislature and Governor for Removing Residency Requirement From State’s Medical Aid-in-Dying Law.
- Vermont Ethics Network. Medical Aid in Dying.
- Death With Dignity. In Your State.