In a boost for controversial legislation now before the General Assembly, a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday found broad support among Connecticut voters for allowing doctors to prescribe drugs to help terminally ill patients end their lives.
Voters favor the concept by nearly a 2-1 margin, with support cutting across political, age and gender lines. The independent survey is consistent with a poll commissioned by Compassion & Choices, a group campaigning for passage of the bill.
Quinnipiac found support was 63 percent to 31 percent among men, 58 percent to 33 percent among women, 51 percent to 42 percent among Republicans, 66 percent to 28 percent among Democrats and 63 percent to 31 percent among independents.
Youngest voters, aged 18 to 29, support it, 63 percent to 28 percent. Among voters over 65, the support was 54 percent to 37 percent.
Opinion was mixed when voters were asked if they would ask a doctor for help taking their own life: 39 percent say no in all cases, 33 percent say they would if terminally ill, as would another 12 percent if they were terminally ill and in pain.
“These results support the experience in other states where death with dignity is legal: that a strong majority believe it is a fundamental right and they are comforted by having choice at end of life, whether or not they take advantage of it,” said Tim Appleton, the director of the Compassion & Choices campaign in Connecticut.
A bill before the legislature’s Public Health Committee would allow adults who are judged to be mentally competent and have been diagnosed as terminally ill to seek a prescription for a lethal dose of drugs from a physician.
The legislation would permit physicians to prescribe the drugs, not administer them.
It also would require two people to witness a patient’s request for lethal drugs, and one must be someone other than a family member, a beneficiary of the patient’s estate or employee of a health-care facility where the patient is being treated.
Stephen Mendelsohn, a volunteer with Second Thoughts Connecticut, a group opposed to the bill, said the disabled community remains concerned about coercion, especially of the elderly.
“There is no witness at the death,” he said. “How do we know if the person changed his mind?”
The committee is expected to hold a public hearing later this month. The state’s Catholic bishops and groups for disabled people opposed a similar bill last year that never came to a vote.
On another issue before the legislature, voters registered strong opposition to keno, an electronic game that allows patrons of restaurants, bars and convenience stores to bet on drawings held every five minutes.
The budget passed last year authorized the Connecticut Lottery Corp. to offer keno once the state negotiates a deal to share proceeds with the two tribal casinos, which contend that keno falls under their exclusive right to offer slot machines.
But the legislature’s leadership is now pushing a repeal bill that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says he would sign into law.
Voters oppose keno, 65 percent to 29 percent. The only demographic to support the game are voters 18-to-29-years-old, who favor it, 62 percent to 29 percent.
Support for keno never has topped 35 percent in Quinnipiac polls dating back to 2010.
Frank Farricker, the chairman of the Lottery Corp., opposed repeal during a public hearing this week, saying the game is now offered in all surrounding states.
Opponents objected to it as expanding the presence of legalized gambling into as many as 3,000 restaurants, bars and retail outlets.
Connecticut already relies on gambling for more than $600 million in revenue, with slightly more than half produced by the Lottery and the remainder from the state’s share of slots revenue at the two tribal casinos.
The poll is based on a random telephone survey of 1,878 voters conducted Feb. 26 to March 2. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.