A Vermont doctor has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s nearly decade-old death with dignity law. Backed by a national advocacy group, she asserts the law is preventing her from providing end-of-life drugs to out-of-staters and violates the Constitution. Vermont in 2013 was the first state in the country to enact medical aid-in-dying legislation. It’s called the Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act, or Act 39. But physicians are only permitted to prescribe terminally ill patients with life-ending medication if they’re residents of Vermont. Dr. Diana Barnard, one of the two plaintiffs in the case, is a hospice care specialist in Middlebury, and her practice treats both Vermonters and patients from northern New York. For 13 years, she has helped terminally ill patients navigate suffering in life and decency in death. But Barnard says she is forced to routinely turn down treatment for out-of-state patients, especially those on the other side of the lake. According to the latest numbers from the health department, 34 Vermont patients were prescribed life-ending medicine between 2017 and 2019 and 28 of them used it to end their life. Compassion & Choices, the advocacy group that filed the lawsuit on Barnard’s behalf, reports one in five Americans have access to medical aid in dying. A terminally ill Connecticut woman, the other plaintiff in the lawsuit, is among the four in five Americans who don’t.
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