On Thursday, August 25, 2022, Patient Choices Vermont (PCV) Board Member Dr. Diana Barnard, in collaboration with the national organization Compassion & Choices and Lynda Bluestein, a terminally ill Connecticut resident seeking medical aid in dying, filed a federal lawsuit to challenge the residency requirement contained in Vermont's Act 39. PCV applauds this work and stands ready to educate the public about the availability of medical aid in dying across state lines.
Ms. Bluestein is diagnosed with stage IIIc3 cancer. Medical aid in dying is not authorized in her home state and she would like the option to access medical aid in dying in Vermont should her suffering become unbearable.
Act 39, like similar laws in other states across the country, makes end-of-life choice available only to residents of Vermont. PCV agrees with the plaintiffs in the lawsuit who state that this restriction is unconstitutional, and that it improperly restricts people from crossing state lines to receive the medical services they seek. Medical aid in dying is the only medical service that is subject to such a restriction.
A recent lawsuit settlement in Oregon creates an important precedent for deleting the residency requirement in Vermont. The Oregon settlement requires officials there to 1) issue directives halting enforcement of the unconstitutional residency provision, and 2) initiate a legislative request to permanently remove the residency language from the law.
We look forward to to the day when all individuals seeking end-of-life choice can access the services they want.
The PCV Helpline and website resources will be augmented to assist out-of-state residents once they can legally access medical aid in dying in Vermont.
Dr. Diana Barnard
A native Vermonter, Dr. Barnard is Board Certified in Hospice and Palliative Care as well as in Family Practice. After more than 17 years in private practice in Addison County, she is a Palliative Care Medicine Physician at University of Vermont Medical Center and an Associate Professor at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.
Dr. Barnard was recognized in 2019 by the Madison Dean Education Fund award entitled "Excellence in End of Life Care." She has served on the Ethics and Palliative Care Committees and Board of Directors of Porter Hospital and also on the board of Hospice Volunteer Services of Addison County. Dr. Barnard was honored by the UVM Larner College of Medicine with the 2020 Service to Medicine and Community Award.
In 2021, Dr. Barnard was named Vermont Family Physician of the Year. She is the Vermont liaison to the American Clinicians Academy for Medical Aid in Dying. Prior to her present position, was the Medical Director and a board member of Helen Porter Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center. She is a passionate advocate for holistic, comprehensive and patient directed care at the end of life. Dr. Barnard was instrumental in the passage of Act 39 as one of the few practicing physicians who testified for the need for medical aid in dying. She has worked tirelessly to educate medical professionals and serves as the primary resource for clinicians who call PCV or contact her directly for information on aid in dying.
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Patient Choices Vermont
PO Box 671
Shelburne, VT 05482
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