Vermont becomes America’s first ‘suicide tourism’ state

Vermont becomes America’s first ‘suicide tourism’ state: New bill allows terminally ill patients from anywhere in US to take advantage of its assisted dying law

Vermont became the first US state to approve suicide tourism today, allowing out-of-state residents dealing with terminal illness to seek end-of-life medicine there.  

The state is one of 10 in the US that allows assisted suicide. The others include Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia. 

The removal of the Vermont residency requirement signed into law by Republican Gov Phil Scott opens the door to a concept known as ‘suicide tourism’, which involves traveling to a jurisdiction where assisted suicide is legal. 

Before Vermont removed its residency requirement Tuesday, it had reached a settlement agreement with a terminally-ill Connecticut woman allowing her to take advantage of Vermont’s law, provided she complies with other aspects of it. 

US states have been following the lead of northern neighbor Canada in liberalizing its assisted suicide laws in what critics are calling a euthanasia free-for-all. 

Republican Gov Phil Scott signed the bill that removes the residency requirement for the decades-old assisted dying law

Ten states and the District of Columbia allow assisted suicide. Seven states are eyeing their own Medical Aid-in-Dying (MAiD) laws this session, others are loosening their rules

Ten states and the District of Columbia allow assisted suicide. Seven states are eyeing their own Medical Aid-in-Dying (MAiD) laws this session, others are loosening their rules 

Last year, 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 in its assisted dying law. 

While the residency requirement is not effectively enforced in Oregon, the law has not yet been changed, making Vermont the first state to officially lift the requirement. 

Kim Callinan, president and CEO of Compassion & Choices, a nonprofit advocacy organization that filed the challenge the Oregon residency requirement last year said: ‘We are grateful to Vermont lawmakers for recognizing that a state border shouldn’t determine if you die peacefully or in agony.

‘Patients routinely travel to other states to utilize the best healthcare options. There is no rational reason they shouldn’t be able to travel to another state to access medical aid in dying if the state they live in doesn’t offer it.’ 

Under Vermont’s Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act, residents who are suffering from an incurable and irreversible disease that would, within reasonable medical judgment, result in death within six months, would qualify for assisted suicide. 

They must be able to self-administer the medication and be capable of making their own health care decisions. Interested patients are required to make two requests orally to the physician over a certain timeframe and then submit a written request that they signed in the presence of two or more witnesses who aren’t interested parties.

Then, witnesses must sign and affirm that the patient appeared to understand the nature of the document and was free from duress or undue influence at the time. 

But critics of assisted suicide are concerned that there are not enough safeguards in place to protect people with disabilities, who may be steered toward end-of-life care. 

Major opponents of assisted suicide include the Catholic church and anti-abortion activists. 

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: ‘Assisted suicide laws typically appear to limit eligibility to terminally ill patients who are expected to die within six months but don’t distinguish between persons who will die within six months with treatment and those who will die within six months without treatment.

‘This means that patients with treatable diseases (like diabetes or chronic respiratory or cardiac disease) and patients with disabilities requiring ventilator support are all eligible for lethal drugs because they would die within six months without the treatment they would normally receive.’

And in New Hampshire, where aid-in-dying bills have repeatedly failed in the legislature, the anti-abortion Right to Life group ‘oppose[s] all forms of suicide, assisted or not, because of the self-evident truth that Life is an inalienable right. No individual can have the right to terminate himself or another person because only God, who created that human life, has that authority.’