Can An 'Aid in Dying' Law Pass in Connecticut?

Deep divisions emerge as legislators take up the controversial proposal that would allow terminally ill patients to get medicine from their doctor to end their life.

State Rep. Elizabeth B. Ritter (D-38) is a co-sponsor of Connecticut's bill. Credit: House Democrats Website
State Rep. Elizabeth B. Ritter (D-38) is a co-sponsor of Connecticut's bill. Credit: House Democrats Website
The controversial issue of physician assisted suicide took center stage at the state capitol Monday.

People on both sides came out in force for a hearing hosted by the Public Health Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly.

The bill at the heart of the debate, HB-5326, is co-sponsored by two Democrats — state Rep. Elizabeth B. Ritter (D-38) and state Sen. Edward Meyer (D-12). It's called An Act Concerning Compassionate Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Patients, and its purpose is:

"To allow a physician to prescribe medication at the request of a mentally competent patient that has a terminal illness that such patient may self-administer to bring about his or her death." 

Read the full text of the bill.

"Our state has a long history of honoring personal choices, and this issue is an important one that centers on a person's individual right to decide how to die," Ritter said during a press conference earlier this year.

According to Compassion & Choices, an organization that is pushing for aid in dying legislation, the measure has nearly 70 percent support in Connecticut.

"Courts around the country, including the Supreme Court, have upheld the right our very able team is fighting for in Connecticut, and the medical practice of aid in dying is now legal in four states and counting," said Mickey MacIntyre, chief program officer of Compassion & Choices.

A Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll nearly came up with the exact opposite finding. It found that:

Fifty-five percent believe a doctor should not prescribe or provide life-ending drugs, but instead should manage the illness (27 percent) or be allowed to remove a respirator or other medical interventions so nature can take its course (28 percent).

The Oregon Trail

Connecticut's proposed law is largely modeled after one in Oregon, which was narrowly approved by voters in 1994 and put into effect in 1997 after going through several legal challenges.

In its first year, 15 Oregonians ended their lives under the auspices of the Death with Dignity Act. [Read a detailed report documenting Oregon's first year experience with the law.]

In 2013, 71 terminally ill patients used the Oregon law to end their life, the organization Death with Dignity reports, citing that state's Department of Human Services (DHS). 

Death With Dignity reports that at least six other states are also considering aid-in-dying bills. One was proposed in Connecticut last year, but it failed.

Do you support the aid-in-dying bill?

ted Aub March 20, 2014 at 09:19 AM
Not only is this bill sponsored by legislators that were against the death penalty but we have not heard any testifying from the medical community who I feel will be wrongly burdened with the task. I believe this will create a PTSD like effect which I feel is wrong to burden doctors with. From an evolutionary standpoint the availability of hospice and the manner they operate, to me is satisfactory and I have had many experiences there with both family and friends. You talk about rights, in a reverse definition having a loved one or a friend sentenced by a bunch of part-time legislators who need to do what they were elected for ( repair the economy for one ) instead of focusing on ridiculous things like the mattress bill and so on. We do not have the right to bypass the process, but should comfort those from enduring excessive pain and suffering. Society is not ready for this and the comments here support that.
Interested Party March 20, 2014 at 11:40 AM
I agree with Tabasco, and I support the bill. If anyone wants to know who I am, you are welcome to ask and I shall tell you. I am just an old lady, who spent a long career managing a corporate health plan, and who has experienced all the horrors of watching people die painful long deaths...
Carma March 21, 2014 at 10:52 AM
Interested Party...I don't think that you understand my point(s). I am well aware that health care is a business...and I feel that doctors and health care providers deserve to make a good living (that is a debte for another day as many seem to feel that health care should be provided to all free of charge)...but I think that it still can/should be provided in a personal and caring manner. As I mentioned, I can already see, from my own experience, that this is slipping away...and I feel that it will only get worse once the government steps deeper into it. I don't know how to turn back the clock, or come up with a hybrid system that can provide the best of both worlds, but I don't like what is happening and what I see coming in the future. I find it frightening and very, very sad. I suppose that we will have to agree to disagree on this. Good health and happiness to you and yours.
Carma March 21, 2014 at 11:04 AM
PS..I never, never made the leap into believing/saying that the government has a covert plan to kill people off (I did state that unscrupulous family or insurance providers could try to scam the system)...I just believe that when the government steps in to make decisions for the masses the individualized, caring, etc. offerings disappear (by necessity, I suppose as there are just too many people to "satisfy" individually). People can home school if they don't like public education and can't afford private school...not so easy (not saying home schooling is easy) to be your own doctor, especially when a severe or catastrophic illness occurs. It is possible to be your own medical advocate, and educate yourself and participate in your health care decisions...but that still doesn't make one a doctor, and it could, IMO, become difficult to self-advocate in a world where the government regulates too much of the system. Medicine/healthcare is a very unique and important "service" and I just hate to see it become cookie cutter and taken out of the hands of the patients and the doctors by red tape and regulations.
Interested Party March 21, 2014 at 06:29 PM
Carm, you are right, medicine is very different now, than it was in the past, and I am afraid that it will never again be as it was, in the days gone by, when doctors had time to know their patients. I worked in a physician's office in the early 60s. He practiced alone, a general practioner. I was his only office staff. Life was simpler then. He even made house calls. Those days are gone, never to return. It is too bad that is the way it goes, but there are positives to the changes in healthcare, that we do benefit from. Technology is vastly improved, medications and treatment protocols are all improved. Life expectancy is longer, and many diseases can be cured. So, it's not all bad.


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