Bill to remove residency requirement for aid-in-dying drugs goes to governor

by Aubrey Weaver, Community News Service

A bill that would remove the residency requirement in Vermont’s law allowing terminally ill patients to receive medication with which to end their own life has passed the Legislature and awaits the governor’s approval. 

“There’s no other kind of medical care in Vermont in which your residency is required,” said David Englander, senior policy and legal advisor for the Vermont Department of Health. “There shouldn’t be anything unique about this care. It’s simply the last decision made between a patient and a doctor through the lifetime of the patient.”

The change comes following a lawsuit against the state last August after a Connecticut cancer patient was denied medical aid in dying because she was not a Vermont resident. In March, Vermont waived the residency requirement for her as part of a settlement of that lawsuit, in which the patient argued the restriction was unconstitutional. 

Because the lawsuit was settled, that constitutionality question remains unanswered. But if signed into law, H.190 would make it a moot point — and allow the state to sidestep a dicey situation. 

“I think there are arguments for and against constitutionality, but I would not say it is per se unconstitutional,” said legislative counsel Jennifer Carbee to the Senate health committee this month. “If you don’t make this change, there is the potential for additional litigation and potentially a court decision.”

Now the Legislature seeks to expand the right to all patients who come to Vermont for lethal medication. In H.190, the only step in the process that changes is the residency requirement for patients. Other requirements still include the patient being at least 18 years old, suffering from a terminal condition based on physician examination and being capable of making a voluntary and informed decision to hasten their own death. 

If passed, the policy will take effect immediately. 

The simple nature of the bill hasn’t kept critics at bay. Members of the Vermont Right to Life group, which in the past has opposed abortion access and other measures, testified against the bill when it was in the House human services committee. The group opposes the idea of medically assisted suicide to begin with and has further concerns about extending the right to non-residents.

“I spoke with a retired funeral director about H. 190, and he raised his concern that patients who come to Vermont and do ingest the lethal dose can simply leave their remains for the State of Vermont to dispose of properly,” wrote Mary Hahn Beerworth, the executive director of the group, in her testimony. “This funeral home director has had to deal with abandoned bodies in the past and outlined the search for relatives and the costs that were absorbed by the state.”

Englander said an increase in remains under state care “is not something we are expecting.” 

“I think there’s a host of reasons why it’s unlikely for there to be a significant increase,” said Englander, citing the choice providers have to decline providing lethal medications to patients.

To Englander, “it should be both sort of normal and profound because we’re dealing with death, but it’s also just a medical decision.”

Categories: Life&Death

6 replies »

  1. Is there an appropriation for the tourism bureau to advertise our death cult industry? “Vermont, a great place to die!” “Vermont, make us your final desitination!” “Vermont, make our Green Mountain fresh air the last breath you take!” “Vermont suicide, not with your own gun, just drop off and we’ll take care of the rest” Being that human sacrificing, sterilization, and descrating human bodies is a priority here, they need to glamorize and sanitize their ritualistic demonic industry. How will they attract the right consumers who favor perversion, self-mutilation, and death?

  2. I think this may be okay for certain conditions, it is more humane, less messy, and more certain then most other ways. Not liking abortion on demand though, that is none of the above.

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