Bridgeport patient sues state of Vermont over ‘aid-in-dying’ restrictions

A cancer patient from Bridgeport is suing the state for the right to die with a doctor's help. But she’s not suing the state of Connecticut – she’s taking Vermont to court.
Lynda Bluestein is dying of fallopian cancer.
"I don't have decades,” she said. “I may not even have another year."
Since Connecticut doctors are banned from helping patients end the own lives, Bluestein wants to travel to Vermont. But only in-state residents qualify. In a new federal lawsuit, Bluestein says Vermont’s residency requirement is unconstitutional.
"The United States Constitution guarantees the right to interstate travel and disallows restrictions that states might place on things that would prevent interstate travel, including access to medical care,” said Amitai Heller, an attorney with Compassion and Choices, an advocacy group representing Bluestein.
Compassion and Choices settled a similar lawsuit against the state of Oregon in March.
Ten other states allow “aid-in-dying,” also known as doctor-assisted suicide, but only Montana (and now Oregon) allow out-of-state patients to access the care. If a judge strikes down Vermont’s law, patients across the country could potentially travel for the treatment.
Mary Beerworth of the Vermont Right to Life Committee, which opposes assisted suicide, said that if the challenge is successful, Vermont could become a destination for terminally ill people seeking to end their lives.
Vermont authorities declined to comment on the suit.
“The Vermont Attorney General's Office will review the complaint and will file a response with the court,” said Lauren Jandl, the AG’s office chief of staff
In Connecticut, aid-in-dying bills have failed repeatedly, in spite of significant safeguards.
"There are too many loopholes that are still available and opportunities for abuses,” said state Sen. Heather Somers (R-Groton) during a hearing on March 4.
Bluestein says moving to Vermont would be too expensive and time-consuming with the limited time she has left.
"It's not just pack a few things and an overnight kit and move to Vermont,” she said. “It's leaving everything that you need at the end of your life, to be in a foreign place, with strangers."
Bluestein watched her mother die of cancer. She wants to go on her own terms.
"My mother was embarrassed,” she said. “I don't want my granddaughters, I don't want my son, I don't want my daughter -- I don't want anybody to see me unable to be Lynda that they know and love."
Bluestein’s husband Paul, a physician, said he doesn’t want to watch his wife suffer.
"People would not let their dog or their cat suffer like that, and yet they're perfectly willing to have people suffer,” he said. “I don't understand that."