In a huge step for compassion at the end of life, the State of Vermont has just opened the option of medical aid in dying to people regardless of where they live.
Removal of the Act 39 residency restriction is far more than a political victory. The overwhelming support in the legislature and signature by the Governor demonstrate how, together, we have accomplished a pivotal shift in cultural attitudes toward end-of-life choice here in Vermont. Since the founding of PCV twenty-one years ago, medical aid in dying has become a widely valued and respected option in the continuum of end-of-life care.
Now, as we mark the 10th anniversary of our law, PCV performs a vital role as the key resource in Vermont for medical aid in dying information. Our small staff and dedicated team of volunteers is receiving many more calls, questions, and requests for professional updates and training. There is much more work ahead. Together, we will:
Consider a donation of $30, $60 or, if you are able, $200, $500, or $1,000.
You can donate by mail or online at PatientChoices.org/Donate.
PCV is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Your contributions are tax-deductible.
The very first out of-state caller to PCV’s helpline put it this way: "I feel such gratitude that only an old-fashioned word expresses well enough my respect for your work: noble.”
This new resource on our website is the place to access key information for people who reside outside of Vermont:
Non-Resident Checklist — For out-of-state patients, their families and doctors, this guide makes clear that all steps in the medical aid in dying process must be accomplished physically in Vermont. It urges patients to discuss all their options with their own medical teams before asking for a referral to a Vermont doctor.
With its team of expert medical professionals, PCV has compiled this thoroughly researched guide for members of the medical community (patientchoices.org/clinicians-guide.html):
Clinician’s Guide to Medical Aid in Dying — Comprehensive and concise, this resource guides clinicians through end-of-life conversations and medical aid in dying.
For more of the backstory on how the residency requirement was removed, read on!
In 2022, PCV was the catalyst behind a set of amendments that streamlined Act 39 by
allowing telemedicine, shortening the timeline, and providing express immunity for pharmacists. These improvements have already made it less burdensome for people who choose the option of medical aid in dying in Vermont. Our work with the legislature during that period brought our representatives and senators up to date about end-of-life care so that when we began to explore removal of the residency requirement, key legislative leaders were already well-informed.
Over the past year, we have worked closely with the national organization Compassion and Choices (C&C) on the matter of residency restrictions. In March 2022, C&C settled a lawsuit that virtually assures that the residency requirement will be removed in Oregon. Legislation is currently pending there. In Vermont, C&C represented the plaintiffs in a similar lawsuit filed in September 2022 while PCV worked in parallel to further educate legislators. These coordinated efforts meant that when the Vermont lawsuit was settled in the plaintiffs’ favor in March 2023, the required legislative correction was already well on its way toward timely passage.
So now, with your support, Vermont is the first state with a medical aid in dying law that complies with the Constitutional guarantee of equal access to goods and services across state lines. Together, we have affirmed the principle that individual choice, not state of residence, should determine what medical care is available to Americans. We are already hearing heartfelt thanks from many people beyond our borders for whom this change offers comfort.
As Dr. Diana Barnard says, “At the end of the day, this isn’t about lawyers and it isn’t about doctors. It’s really all about patients.”
I ask that you think about what end-of-life choice means to you and consider making PCV one of your priority contributions. End of life is a deeply sensitive and personal time, one in which we all wish for peace, freedom, and connection. Your contribution really makes a difference.
Betsy J. Walkerman, Esq.