Very soon, members of the Connecticut House of Representatives and the State Senate will be voting on HB6425, – the Medical Aid in Dying bill. More than 20 years ago, Oregon implemented its Death with Dignity Act. Since then, Washington, Vermont, California, Montana, Colorado, Maine, Washington DC, Hawaii and most recently New Mexico have passed legislation authorizing medical aid in dying for terminally ill adults.
But not Connecticut, which has turned its back on this issue for two decades, never even allowing it out of committee to be heard by the General Assembly until this year in spite of polls which show that 75% of people and the majority of doctors (including me) favor allowing patients suffering from an incurable illness to seek a dignified death.
For several years, I have been an advocate for passage of a Connecticut Medical Aid in Dying Bill – which is NOT assisted suicide as opponents like to call it – and I have waited while some members of the House and Senate have, in the dark of secret committee votes, delayed, deferred and obstructed action while hundreds of their constituents suffer needlessly through terminal illnesses.
Until last month, this was a philosophical issue for me, but no more. My wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last month and now the issue is very personal. This is not a political issue. We are all going to die regardless of which party we belong to or what religion we do, or don’t practice.
This is a human issue and the only question is whether we will have a say in how we die. I don’t see how prohibiting people from having a full range of choices about their end-of-life care is anything other than a denial of what should be a basic human right.
Supporting this legislation allows one of the most important health care decisions to be made by patients and their families in consultation with their own doctors. Constituents should ask – demand – that their representatives tell them where they stand on this issue. If they have been a supporter, please thank them. If they have been opponents, ask them to remember that they or a loved one may one day face the situation I am now confronting.
My own question to opponents of death with dignity is this: After more than 20years, do you have no compassion, no empathy, no sense of decency?
Paul Bluestein MD, FACOG, lives in Bridgeport.