Lawsuit settlement begins to open access to medical aid in dying

Vermont Business Magazine Patient Choices Vermont (PCV) is pleased to announce the settlement of a lawsuit filed last August challenging the constitutionality of the Vermont residency requirement in our medical-aid-in-dying law (Act 39). The settlement means that plaintiff Lynda Shannon Bluestein, a terminally ill cancer patient from Connecticut, will now have access to medical-aid-in-dying services in Vermont. The settlement further stipulates that Vermont officials will support removal of the residency requirement from the law.

Act 39, adopted in May 2013, enables terminally ill Vermonters who are capable of making their own medical decisions, to request and receive medication to bring about a hastened death at a time of their choosing. Act 39, like similar medical-aid-in-dying laws in other states, currently makes end-of-life choice only available to Vermont state residents.

The lawsuit was filed on August 25, 2022, by PCV Board Member Dr. Diana Barnard and Connecticut patient Lynda Shannon Bluestein, in collaboration with Compassion & Choices.

PCV brought this issue to the attention of Vermont legislative leaders last fall. House Bill 190 received a unanimous recommendation by the House Committee on Human Services on February 14, 2023, and was passed by the Vermont House in a strong, tri-partisan vote three days later. The bill was sent on to the Senate, read for the first time on February 22, and referred to the Committee on Health and Welfare where it awaits further action.

As PCV and others have testified, the current residency requirement improperly restricts people from crossing state lines to receive the medical services they need. Medical aid in dying is the only medical service that is subject to such a restriction.

Betsy Walkerman, President of PCV, says, "Access to medical care should not depend on the state in which a person lives."

Please see the PCV page on the Vermont's Act 39 Residency Issue for more details, including the following video that explains the lawsuit:

Since 2013, PCV has worked to educate and expand the network of Vermont's medical providers who support terminally ill patients who want a choice at the end of life using Act 39. The PCV website is being updated to provide an explanation and checklist for out-of-state residents who may want to consider medical aid in dying in Vermont once the residency requirement is removed.

Patient Choices Vermont is a non-profit organization focused on educating Vermonters about end-of-life choice and medical aid in dying.

(March 15, 2023 - Shelburne, VT) Patient Choices Vermont