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Senate approves bill to allow non-Vermonters to use aid in dying law

Looking down on the empty Vermont Senate chamber, with papers at desks
Elodie Reed

The Vermont Senate has approved legislation that would allow non-residents to seek life-ending medication from doctors in Vermont.  

For the last 10 years, terminally ill Vermonters with less than six months to live have been able to request a prescription from doctors to hasten their deaths.  

Forty states, however, still prohibit medical aid in dying. And Chittenden County Sen. Ginny Lyons said Tuesday that the ability to die at a time and place of one’s choosing should not be determined by zip code.  

“There’s certainly no justification to put a residency requirement on end-of-life care and to distinguish this care as something other than health care,” Lyons said.  

Last year, a 75-year-old Connecticut woman with terminal cancer sued the state of Vermont over the residency requirement in its aid-in-dying law, claiming the provision violated the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution.  

The woman settled that suit in March after the state agreed to allow her to fill a life-ending prescription in Vermont. But Lyons noted Tuesday that medically assisted death is the only health care service in Vermont that has a residency requirement.  

Lyons says out-of-state residents would have to go through the same rigorous process that Vermonters must navigate in order to obtain the prescription: Patients first need a diagnosis of a terminal illness with less than six months to live; they need to request the medication multiple times both orally and in writing; and they must be of sound mind, and able to administer the dose themselves.

More from Vermont Public: On delivery with Vermont's only pharmacist for aid in dying prescriptions

Oregon is the only state that currently allows non-residents to participate in its aid-in-dying law.  

The legislation received final approval in the Senate on Wednesday. It then heads for final approval in the House, which overwhelmingly approved a nearly identical version of the bill earlier this year.  

Gov. Phil Scott has indicated he supports the measure.  

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Updated: April 21, 2023 at 4:54 PM EDT
This article has been updated to reflect the result of the final Senate vote on Wednesday.
The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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