I owe an apology to the Connecticut State Medical Society. Last year, I wrote a letter to the Connecticut Mirror criticizing the CSMS for its years of opposition to medical aid-in-dying. What I didn’t know at the time was that the CSMS physician leadership had been in the process of re-evaluating the CSMS policy concerning death with dignity.
Facilitated by EVP/CEO Matt Katz and CSMS President, Dr. Claudia Gruss, the Ethics Committee led by Dr. Henry Jacobs undertook thoughtful and careful clinical and ethical discussions. The outcome of that process was that this month, the membership of the CSMS approved a change in their policy concerning medical aid-in-dying from opposed to engaged neutrality, meaning “The CSMS is committed to protecting its members’ freedom to decide what medical aid-in-dying options to provide to patients in accordance with each physician’s personally held values, beliefs and ethical standards, including the decision whether or not to write a prescription for a lethal dose of medication, if legalized in Connecticut.”
This follows similar policy decisions made in Vermont, Massachusetts and New Mexico which recently joined medical societies in California, Colorado, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Hawaii and the District of Columbia in dropping their opposition and voting to take a neutral stance on medical aid-in-dying.
In fact, most U.S. doctors support allowing patients suffering from an incurable illness to seek a dignified death. A survey of 21,000 doctors across the country last year found that the majority favored death with dignity legislation and, for the past 20 years, seven in 10 Americans have told Gallup they are in favor of right-to-die policies.
In Connecticut, Medical Aid-in-Dying bills have been considered many times, including bills considered in 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018 which received hearings but never made it out of committee. The Connecticut State Medical Society should be applauded for its recognition of the importance of allowing patients and physicians to decide what is the right care at the end of life, including the right to request medical aid-in-dying.
I hope this will finally be the year when the state representatives and senators will show as much compassion and common sense as the Medical Society and pass the kind of legislation that physicians support and the people of Connecticut want.
Paul Bluestein, MD, lives in Bridgeport.
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