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Vermont committee advances medically assisted suicide for non-residents

by | Feb 15, 2023

“Bill would provide East Coast ‘option’ for terminally ill out-of-state residents who want to end their lives legally with a lethal-drugs prescription” 

By Dave Andrusko

Vermont took the first step Tuesday in joining Oregon as the only two states that no longer require someone who wants to be “assisted” to die to be a resident of the state. In a March 27th settlement, “the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Medical Board agreed to stop enforcing the residency requirement and to ask the Legislature to remove it from the law” the Associated Press reported.

“The House Human Services Committee unanimously approved removing the residency requirement. A similar bill is in committee in the Senate,” Gene Johnson reported. “The full Legislature must consider the proposal, and then, if it is passed, it would need to be signed by Republican Gov. Phil Scott to become law.”

Prior to the vote, Mary Hahn Beerworth, executive director of the Vermont Right to Life Committee, said assisted suicide “was and remains a matter of contention.”

“To be clear, Vermont Right to Life opposed the underlying concept behind assisted suicide and opposes the move to remove the residency requirement as there are still no safeguards that protect vulnerable terminally ill people in Vermont from coercion,” she said.

Beerworth told the National Catholic Register “Remove the residency requirement on enough states that have assisted suicide laws, and you’ve pretty much got the whole United States.” 

Illustrating just how far about the two sides are, David Englander, the state Health Department’s senior policy and legal advisor, said, “It’s important that we move to normalize this kind of care because it is both exceptional but also every day,” Johnson reported.

Whatever the terminology—proponents prefer “medical aid in dying” — “accessing it has become easier in Vermont, where the original version of the statute required, among other things, two in-person visits to a doctor, two oral requests 15 days apart, a subsequent written request, and a waiting period of at least 48 hours between the final request and the prescription,” McDonald reported. “In April 2022, the governor signed into law a bill allowing a telehealth option and eliminating the 48-hour waiting period.”

The new bill, which observers expect to pass, would open the option to non-residents.

“We always said the slippery slope would keep widening. And it did,” Beerworth said.

Categories: State Legislation
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