According to the Hartford Courant, Connecticut lawmakers will again introduce an assisted suicide bill despite multiple failures to pass similar legislation beginning in 2013 — none of which made it out of committee.
“It is one of the priority bills of the public health committee,” Rep. Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport) told the Hartford Courant. “A couple tweaks here and there, nothing of real consequence reflecting some of the learning we’ve had from experience of other states.”
Opponents say it will codify lethal disability discrimination into law. “Some people will get suicide prevention and others suicide assistance, and the difference will be based on their disability status,” said Stephen Mendelsohn, member of Second Thoughts Connecticut which opposes assisted suicide legislation.
Under the previous bill, a patient was required to submit two written requests at least 15 days apart to a physician with two other people witnessing the requests. A consulting physician would then be required to examine the patient, confirm the first doctor’s initial diagnosis, and then determine if the patient were competent and requesting death voluntarily.
“No amount of safeguards can counter the social stigma of needing help with intimate care, of having to rely on others for support, of seeing your caregivers are tired, and wondering whether the world would be better off without you,” explained Cathy Ludlum, leader of Second Thoughts. “One has to wonder why you’re pushing it through during COVID-19 when constituents have less access to legislators and public hearings.”
Second Thoughts noted that there is no opportunity to make appointments with legislators due to COVID-19 and lawmakers will not be able to read through the hundreds of emails from the public regarding the legislation without aides to help. Requests for Zoom meetings with legislators have received little or no response and there will not be the chance to speak at public hearings as in years past.
Steinberg denies that patients could be coerced into assisted suicide however, cardiologist Thomas E. Sullivan said that patients in states in which assisted suicide is legal list fear of being a burden to caregivers as their top reason for requesting lethal drugs. Other commonly listed reasons include loneliness, depression, and loss of purpose for living.
“None of these situations are easy to manage, but that is the domain of physiatrists and other disability care specialists and when appropriate, the role of hospice, palliative and compassionate experts who routinely perform these functions in the most humane manner,” explained Sullivan.
Attorney and Second Thoughts member Lisa Blumberg echoed this, stating that the assisted suicide legislation is not a bill about patient rights. “The supposed safeguards only apply to the prescribing of drugs rather than the use of the drugs,” she said. “We don’t know if a patient is competent when he takes them. We don’t know if he is having a bad day. We don’t know anything. We cannot afford to just have faith.”
In March 2020, when COVID-19 abruptly ended the legislative session, pro-assisted suicide group Compassion and Choices vowed to “grow our grassroots supporter base” and “empower Connecticut residents to chart their own end-of-life journey.”
Ludlom said that people are forming opinions about assisted suicide as a right because they don’t know the whole truth.
“If they see it only as a civil right, and are never told about all the things that can go wrong — from misdiagnosis, incorrect or uncertain prognosis, coercion and abuse; to problems with the suicide drugs themselves — how can they make an informed decision?” she said. “And this is a BIG decision. If assisted suicide passes, it will forever change the way healthcare is provided. At a time when we are already concerned about disparities in healthcare, it will adversely affect people’s lives, especially those of us who are already societally devalued.”
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