Vermont became the first state to remove the residency requirement for its medically assisted suicide law, allowing nonresidents who are terminally ill to travel to the state to end their lives.
The state is currently one of only 10 to allow medical professionals to help end the lives of their terminally ill patients, and it will now allow outsiders to travel to the state for the procedure. Gov. Phil Scott (R-VT) signed the residency requirement removal into law on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
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“We are grateful to Vermont lawmakers for recognizing that a state border shouldn’t determine if you die peacefully or in agony,” Kim Callinan, president and CEO of Compassion & Choices, a nonprofit advocacy organization, said in a statement.
“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,” she said.
Oregon, which also allows the practice, agreed to stop enforcing the residency requirement in its assisted suicide law last year, but the state has not removed the requirement.
Vermont’s law comes with several safeguards to ensure a patient is not coerced into using the irreversible lethal medication, including a requirement that the patient is capable of making and communicating a healthcare decision to a physician. The patient must verbally tell the physician that he or she wants to die on two separate occasions within a time frame, and the patient must submit a document with the request as well. The document must also be signed by two people who can vouch that the patient was not coerced.
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The legislation comes after Lynda Bluestein, 75, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Dr. Diana Barnard, a physician from Middlebury, Vermont, sued the state last year, claiming the law violated the Constitution’s commerce, equal protection, and privileges and immunity clauses. Barnard also treats patients in Connecticut and New York.
“I thank Vermont lawmakers for repealing the residency requirement for medical aid in dying for the sake of all of my out-of-state patients,” Barnard said in a statement. “I know they will be greatly relieved to have access to this end-of-life care option, whether they decide to use it or not.”
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