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Original reporting by Jenna Carlesso. Compiled by Gabby DeBenedictis.
Legislation that would allow terminally ill adults in Connecticut to access medication to end their lives is again being weighed by lawmakers in 2023, despite the “aid-in-dying” bill’s defeat in the state more than a dozen times previously.
Here’s what you need to know about the bill and its history in Connecticut.
The ‘aid-in-dying’ bill would allow adults with a terminal illness to submit written requests for lethal medication.
Under the bill, adults who have been residents of Connecticut for at least a year and who have a terminal illness with less than six months to live can submit two written requests for lethal medication at least 15 days apart.
Each request must be given to an attending physician and witnessed by two people who are not relatives, beneficiaries of the patient’s estate or will, managers or owners of a health care facility where the patient resides or receives treatment, or the patient’s doctor. The witnesses must attest that the person appears to be of sound mind and acting voluntarily without coercion.
When a doctor is presented with the first request for lethal medication, he or she must determine that the patient has a terminal illness, is competent and has voluntarily requested it. The finding cannot be made solely based on age, disability or any specific illness.
The patient must be referred to a consulting physician to confirm the attending’s diagnosis and referred to counseling. Medication cannot be dispensed until the person providing counseling determines the patient is not suffering from a “psychiatric or psychological condition … that is causing impaired judgment,” according to the proposal.
Patients would be able to rescind their requests.
The patient can rescind the request “at any time and in any manner without regard to such patient’s mental state,” according to the measure. An attending physician must twice offer the patient the opportunity to revoke the request.
If a patient rescinds a request after medication is dispensed, “the attending physician shall inform the patient to safely dispose of the medication at a pharmacy that accepts and disposes of unused prescription drugs … or a municipal police station that collects and disposes of unwanted pharmaceuticals,” the bill states.
A version of the bill passed out of committee for the first time in 2021 but didn’t make it any further.
On March 15, 2021, the legislature’s Public Health Committee voted to send an aid-in-dying bill to the House floor for the first time. The committee voted 24-9 in favor.
However, that year the bill failed to make it out of the Judiciary Committee and did not come up for a vote in the House or Senate.
The bill passed the Public Health Committee in 2022 as well, but once again, it failed to clear the Judiciary Committee.
This year’s version of the bill has some modifications.
Sen. Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor), co-chair of the Public Health Committee, said this year’s proposal addresses many concerns raised by legislators, including increasing the minimum qualifying age from 18 to 21, requiring that a person live in Connecticut for at least a year, and mandating a mental health evaluation for the patient.
“This is a different bill than what people have seen,” he said. “This bill is far more restrictive than some of the others. We looked at all of the concerns people raised in the last few years and we made a list of those concerns. And then we incorporated them in this bill. This is arguably one of the most conservative bills in the country.”
Several states currently allow aid in dying.
At least 10 states and Washington, D.C. allow aid in dying. They include Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine, Montana and New Mexico.