Litigation: Filed August 25, 2022
Lynda Bluestein, a terminally ill Connecticut woman who was ineligible for medical aid in dying because of her residency status, is now able to access the practice in Vermont.
Compassion & Choices filed Bluestein v. Scott, a federal lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the residency requirement in Vermont's medical aid-in-dying law, in August of 2022. The suit was brought by Ms. Bluestein and Diana Barnard, a hospice and palliative care physician and associate professor of family medicine at the University of Vermont who was prevented from helping out-of-state patients interested in the option of medical aid in dying. Plaintiffs were represented by Compassion & Choices, Tarrant, Gillies & Shems, and Perkins Coie.
On March 14, 2023, the plaintiffs announced that a settlement had been reached in the case. Lynda Bluestein is now able to access medical aid in dying in Vermont regardless of her residency status, and the Vermont Department of Health has agreed to publicly support legislation to remove the residency requirement permanently. In addition, Dr. Barnard retains the right to refile the case in the event that the legislation does not successfully pass through the Legislature.
The lawsuit alleged that the Act’s residency requirement was unconstitutional, violating:
- The U.S. Constitution’s Privileges and Immunities Clause, which prohibits differential treatment of in-state and out-of-state residents that infringes on the fundamental right to travel.
- The U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which prohibits state laws that discriminate against interstate commerce, such as the provision of medical services.
- The U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause, which prohibits unfair treatment on the basis of specific classifications.
Filed on the heels of Oregon agreeing to suspend enforcement of its residency requirement as a result of the settlement reached in the Gideonse v. Brown suit, this lawsuit was the most recent challenge to a residency restriction contained in a medical aid-in-dying law.
Ms. Bluestein is a retired public health professional residing in Bridgeport, Connecticut. It is important to Ms. Bluestein that she maintain control of her medical decisions during the entire course of her treatment, which includes decisions surrounding her death. When Ms. Bluestein decides that her suffering has become unbearable, she wishes to have the option to use medical aid in dying to secure a peaceful death, an option not available to her in her home state of Connecticut.
Dr. Barnard primarily practices in Middlebury, Vermont, which is approximately 20 miles from the New York border. Many northern New York residents have their primary healthcare needs met through the University of Vermont Medical Center, the largest healthcare system in the region. As a result, Dr. Barnard routinely treats patients who reside in New York state. When Dr. Barnard’s New York patients request medical aid in dying, she is required to deny these patients appropriate medical care solely due to their residency status.Please click here to learn more about our work challenging residency restriction in medical aid in dying laws.
Compassion & Choices is committed to ensuring all individuals have the full-range of options at the end of life, including medical aid in dying. To learn more about Compassion & Choices’ work to protect and expand medical aid in dying through the courts, please visit our Medical Aid in Dying Litigation page.