Terminally ill patient holds the hand of family member standing by their bedside.Vermont has become the first state in the U.S. to update its end-of-life choice law to make it legal for nonresidents to pursue medically assisted suicide.

In May 2023, Gov. Phil Scott (R-VT) signed legislation removing the residency requirement from Vermont’s Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act, known as Act 39. While Act 39 has been in place for 10 years in Vermont, it had until now applied only to eligible state residents.

Death With Dignity in Vermont

For terminally ill individuals seeking to use medical assistance for end of life, the Vermont law follows a strict process designed in part to ensure that patients are making a fully informed, voluntary decision about their choice to die.

Among the law’s requirements are the following:

  • Patients must be at least 18 years old and have an incurable condition that is expected to lead to death in six months or less.
  • They must demonstrate that they have the ability to make and communicate their own decisions regarding their health care.
  • The patient must obtain confirmation from their physician, as well as a second physician, about their prognosis.
  • The patient must be capable of administering the lethal prescription medication themselves.

For a full list of requirements included in Vermont’s process, access the text of Act 39 online.

Health care providers in Vermont are not required to provide this end-of-life option.

Right to Die: Assisted Suicide States

Vermont, along with California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Maine, Washington state, and Washington, D.C., currently allow physician-assisted death for terminally ill individuals through what are known as a “right to die” law.

However, Vermont is the only place in the U.S. where the patient does not have to reside there to take advantage of this option. Lawmakers in other states, such as New York, Connecticut, and Minnesota, are also considering legislation in this area.