What will it take to get Connecticut’s legislators to understand that most of their constituents want a state law allowing terminally ill patients to obtain lethal medication from their doctors that they may self-administer to end suffering—only if and when they choose to do so?
The Connecticut Mirror recently reported that Tim Appleton, a senior campaign director for the Compassion and Choices Action Network, walked about 300 miles across Connecticut to talk with people about having the option of choosing an end-of-life experience that reflects their needs and values. In 2024 the Connecticut legislature will be voting on a bill offering a humane option for mentally competent patients who have been diagnosed as terminally ill with a life expectancy of six months or less.
Polls taken in Connecticut have shown that a majority of people favor this option. A 2015 Quinnipiac Poll showed 63% of those polled said they would allow doctors to “legally prescribe lethal drugs to help terminally ill patients end their own lives.” Only 34% were opposed.
In 2021, Compassion and Choices commissioned a Greenberg Quinian Rosner poll that showed 75% of those surveyed favored being able to end the dying process if they found it unbearable. The support for medical-aid-in-dying legislation spanned a wide spectrum of age, demographics, gender identity and political, racial, and religious categories. And—despite the concerns of some opponents with disabilities—the poll showed 65% of disabled individuals wanted to have this choice.
Yet the opponents of medical aid in dying continue to claim there will be errors, misdiagnoses and foul play that will cause unnecessary death. There is absolutely no evidence to indicate this is true. In the 26 years since Oregon initiated the first medical aid in dying law, there has been no evidence of foul play, coercion or errors that caused death. The aid in dying legislation proposed in Connecticut has been carefully crafted to protect the patient.
Eleven states and Washington DC have medical aid in dying laws. We have learned from experience that 36% of patients who obtain the medication do not use it. Doctors and other health care professionals have concluded that when patients know they can decide when it’s time to end their anguish, they are greatly comforted and better able to cope with their illness.
Therefore, if the majority of our citizens favor medical aid in dying for terminally ill patients, and the state Public Health Committee has twice passed an Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Patients bill, why hasn’t the state Judiciary Committee passed the bill and sent it to the full legislature for approval?
Voters don’t know enough about the proposed bill. If everyone who is reading this will call or email their state legislators and urge them to vote for the “Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Patients” bill, and if they tell their friends and associates to do the same, Connecticut will finally have an option for terminally ill patients to die peacefully with dignity.
I’m reminded of the words of the celebrated theoretical physicist and author Dr. Stephen Hawking, who lived 55 years with a form of motor neuron disease. He expressed support for the legalization of medical aid in dying for the terminally ill and said, “To keep someone alive against their wishes is the ultimate indignity.”
Phyllis Ross lives in Lyme.