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

An elderly patient receives palliative care. (Getty Images)
An elderly patient receives palliative care. (Getty Images)

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.

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.

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."

This story is a production of the New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by Vermont Public.


More from WBUR

Listen Live