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Vermont becomes first state to waive residency requirement for medical aid in dying

A young pair of hands grasps an older pair of hands
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Vermont has removed the residency requirement for its medical aid in dying law.

Vermont is the first state in the country to officially allow non-residents to request medications to hasten their death.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed a bill into law Tuesday that removes the residency requirement from Vermont’s medical aid in dying law, which originally passed in 2013.

Before today, only legal residents of the state could request prescriptions for the lethal medications from Vermont doctors. According to state data, 173 Vermonters used medical aid in dying between May 2013 and December 2022.

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

The change comes after a Connecticut woman sued Vermont in order to access medical aid in dying. Lynda Bluestein reached a settlement with the state in March, under which the state waived the residency requirement for her. The case also prompted lawmakers to look into making the change permanent.

Vermont is one of just 10 states and the District of Columbia where medical aid in dying is legal. Under state law, a person wishing to access life-ending medication must follow strict procedures, including getting two doctors to confirm a terminal diagnosis of six months or less to live.

Oregon is also no longer enforcing its residency requirement, following a lawsuit that was settled last May. A bill to formally remove the requirement has cleared the Oregon House and is awaiting action in the Senate.

On Tuesday, advocates in Vermont celebrated the news.

Betsy Walkerman, president of Patient Choices Vermont, praised the lawmakers who led the legislative effort.

“They recognized the essential and very personal right of people to seek medical care of their choosing," she said.

More from Brave Little State: The complexities of medical aid in dying in Vermont

Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, an advocate for expanding access to medical aid in dying for more than 20 years, said the change will help normalize this type of end-of-life health care.

"We are trying to make Vermont health care accessible to as many people as possible," he said. "I appreciate the governor signing the bill."

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Mikaela Lefrak joined Vermont Public in 2021 as co-host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.
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