Doctor-prescribed suicide bill in Connecticut fails to gain support. (4/5/13)
The bill, spearheaded by the national assisted-suicide advocacy group Compassion & Choices (formerly called the Hemlock Society), was pulled from the agenda when it became apparent that it would be defeated. The defeat was due, in large part, to the efforts of disability rights activists.
Background of failed 2013 bill:
Sen. Edward Meyer sponsored a doctor-prescribed suicide bill (HB-6645), called “An Act Concerning Compassionate Aid-in-Dying for Terminally Ill Patients.”
Patterned on the OR and WA assisted-suicide laws, the bill differed, in part, with those laws, creating additional loopholes that place vulnerable patients at risk.
However, it seemed apparent that Sen. Meyer was unaware of the contents of his bill.
In an article, “Senator Meyer on the Controversial Assisted Suicide Bill,” he wrote:
“The bill is full of safeguards. The patient must be certified by his or her physician plus a consulting physician as terminally ill within 6 months of death.”
But that was not the case.
The bill had a provision permitting a physician to dispense a lethal prescription without requiring a second physician to affirm the patient’s diagnosis and prognosis.
[Section 7 (b)]
He also stated that the patient must “make a written request acknowledged by at least two persons excluding any relative or person who would benefit from the patient’s death.”
Again, an inaccurate statement.
The bill required that only one of the two witnesses not be a relative or someone, such as an heir, who would be entitled to a portion of the patient’s estate.
[Section 3 (c)]
Furthermore, he claimed that “if the patient, in the medical opinion of the attending or consulting physician, is suffering from a psychiatric or psychological condition or depression, then the patient must be referred for counseling before a decision is made that the patient is competent and well informed.”
That claim was also false.
The bill only required that an attending or consulting physician refer a patient for counseling if the physician believes that the patient’s depression or psychiatric or psychological condition may be causing impaired judgment.
[Section 8 (a)]
In addition, the bill required only a written request that can be made at any time after the patient’s diagnosis.
As written, the bill would have permitted a physician to:
Determine (correctly or incorrectly) that a depressed patient had a terminal condition and did not have impaired judgment
Write the lethal prescription on the same day as the diagnosis, based on the patient’s written request, witnessed by the patient’s emotionally controlling spouse and that spouse’s close friend or by the patient’s heir and that heir’s best friend.
The attempt was defeated, despite efforts of a national assisted-suicide advocacy group, and was withdrawn from consideration on April 5, 2013. The advocacy group, Compassion & Choices (formerly called the Hemlock Society), also played a major role in a 2010 failed court case (Blick v. CT) that challenged New Jersey’s law against assisted suicide.
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For years, assisted-suicide activists have attempted to transform the crime of assisted suicide into a “medical treatment,” primarily through legislative proposals and voter initiatives. However they have also tried to achieve their agenda by using the courts. As of mid-2009, a case was pending before the Montana Supreme Court.
Assisted-suicide proposals in the Connecticut legislature (1995, 1997 and 2009) failed to gain support for passage.
Connecticut was the latest state to see a court challenge to a state’s assisted-suicide law. On September 30, 2009, the assisted-suicide advocacy group, Compassion & Choices (the former Hemlock Society), filed a complaint on behalf of two Connecticut physicians. The complaint in Blick v. CT sought a declaratory judgment that Connecticut’s law does not provide a valid statutory basis to prosecute any licensed physician who provides an intentional lethal overdose of drugs to certain patients.
Current law regarding assisted suicide
Assisted suicide is a felony in Connecticut.
A person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when he intentionally causes or aids another person, other than by force, duress or deception, to commit suicide.
[Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-56(a)]
Case: Blick v. CT: Case dismissed 6/1/10
Blick v. CT centered on persuading the court that assisted suicide is not assisted suicide when it involves a physician and a patient who is dying. Assisted-suicide advocates argued that such a death should be considered “aid-in-dying” and claimed that “‘aid-in-dying’ is a recognized term of medical art.” The Complaint asked the court to find that an assisted-suicide death “does not constitute ‘suicide’” within the meaning of the law.
The Connecticut Attorney’s office filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint and a Memorandum in Support of the Motion to Dismiss on November 19, 2009. On June 1, 2010 Superior Court Judge Julia Aurigemma issued her Decision, ordering that the case be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In her ruling, Judge Aurigemma thoroughly rejected the attempt to redefine the clear meaning of the word “suicide.” (See page 24 of decision.)
On June 24, 2010 Compassion & Choices announced that it would not appeal the decision.
Articles and Updates
“Not Dead Yet and Second Thought Massachusetts congratulate Connecticut Disability Rights Advocates in Defeat of Assisted Suicide Legislation”
(April 6, 2013)
“Once again disability rights advocates made the difference.” According to Diane Coleman, the bill’s proponents “have no answers to our arguments, namely that all these legalization bills are dangerous and discriminatory.”
“Connecticut General Assembly will not vote on assisted suicide bill this year”
(New Haven Register — April 5, 2013)
State Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D- Milford, the committee’s Senate vice chairwoman, said, “there wasn’t enough support in the committee for the vote. It wasn’t even close…. I think people have difficulty with the idea of having a societal go-ahead for suicide,” said Slossberg who said she is not a supporter.
“Selling suicide with George Soros’ money”
(Washington Examiner — April 4, 2013)
As Connecticut lawmakers begin public hearings on assisted suicide this month, national advocacy groups like Compassion & Choices will mobilize to help create the illusion that the proposed bill is a grassroots initiative.
“Connecticut’s assisted suicide bill has flaw, some experts say”
(Register Citizen — March 31, 2013)
Several differences between the bill and Oregon’s 1997 “Death with Dignity Act,” which served as its model, are likely to be eliminated by the time the bill reaches the full legislature, but the changes aren’t likely to fix what opponents see as dangerous features….Dr. Sherwin Nuland favors the concept of physician-assisted suicide, but criticizes the Oregon law for what he sees as several major flaws, which are also reflected in the Connecticut bill.
“Assisted Suicide: Escape or Slippery Slope?”
(Hartford Courant — March 20, 2013)
“We will be killing our vulnerable parents and grandparents through public policy,” Teresa Wells, a nursing home administrator, said at a press conference Wednesday by a group called Second Thoughts, which has mobilized to stop the bill.
Testimony of Joan Cavanaugh before CT Public Health Committee against Passage of “An Act Concerning Compassionate Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Patients” (March 20, 2013)
“Not Dead Yet Member John Kelly…Against Assisted Suicide Bill”
(News Times — March 20, 2013)
“Underlying the effort to pass HB 6645 is an unwarranted faith in the accuracy of terminal diagoses,” said Kelly. “Doctors admit that they cannot predict when an individual will die. The disability community is full of people who have outlived their diagnoses by years.”
“Assisted Suicide: Escape or Slippery Slope?”
(Hartford Courant — March 20, 2013)
“We will be killing our vulnerable parents and grandparents through public policy, Teresa Wells, a nursing home administrator, said at a press conference Wednesday…. The prospect for passage of the bill in Connecticutt this year are unclear. Public health committee co-chairwoman Terry Gerrantana said she has lingering questions. “If the bill does go forward here in committee,” she said, “I have concerns about much of the language.
“Hearing set for Connecticut assisted-suicide bill”
(Register-Citizen — March 18, 2013)
According to co-sponsor, Sen. Edward Meyer, “The physician prescribes the medicine, gives it to the patient and is not actually present with the patient so there can be no actual claim by somebody that the physician is assisting in a murder.”
“Senator Meyer on the Controversial Assisted Suicide Bill”
(Branford Seven — March 13, 2013)
For the first time in my service as your State Senator, I have received calls and correspondence urging my introduction of a bill which would permit deeply ill people to receive from his or her physician a medication that would end life.
The bill is full of safeguards.
“Our View: Connecticut lawmakers to debate right-to-die legislation”
(Norwich Bulletin –February 16, 2013)
If there is an element to this that causes us concern at this point, it is that Connecticut has no provision in its constitution for voter initiatives, so it is unlikely voters would have any direct say on whether such a measure should be enacted here….Therefore, in our opinion, it is critically important that every citizen be vigilant in following the debate, question the procedures and protocols being proposed and, more importantly, add their voices to that debate.
“Ritter Seeking Right-to-Die Legislation for Terminally Ill Patients”
(Montville Patch — February 6, 2012)
The Connecticut bill would be based on Oregon and Washington state statutes.
“Push for assisted suicide comes to Connecticut”
(Boston Globe — February 5, 2013)
A push for legalization of physician-assisted suicide is under way in at least three Northeastern states, including Connecticut….
Law makers in New Jersey and Vermont are also considering legislation that would allow doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients in a trend that advocates say may be related to the county’s aging population.
“Suicide At Life’s End Is A Slippery, Messy Slope”
(Courant — January 11, 2013)
Contrary to the image of peacefully resting in a chair or bed, surrounded by loved ones, after ingesting drugs prescribed by a trusted physician, the reality of physician-assisted suicides can be grim.
Oregon has a law that permits doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to be self-administered. Their official reports are touted, but only include data voluntarily submitted by the prescribing physicians and not physicians or persons in attendance at the time of death.
“Meyer Introduces Physician Assisted Suicide Bill”
(Bradford Seven — January 9, 2013)
Senator Ed Meyer has introduced a bill, “An Act Concerning Physician-Assisted Suicide,” that would allow patients with a terminal illness to take their own life through prescribed medication. Text of bill.
“Lawmakers Thoughts Linger on Assisted Suicide, Soda & Candy Tax”
(Connecticut News Junkie — November 19, 2012)
With next year’s legislative session set to begin in January, lawmakers are already researching topics for potential bills….One lawmaker has asked the office to summarize the assisted suicide policies of various states… Lawmakers in Connecticut have tried unsuccessfully to enact similar policies in the past.
“‘Right-to-die’ bill a possibility in upcoming Connecticut legislative session”
(New Haven Register — November 12, 2012)
Connecticut’s state legislature may be faced with a “right-to-die” bill in the upcoming legislative session, mulling whether it could be made legal for a doctor to prescribe life-ending medication.
“I think it will be pushed so I expect that we may be at least looking at the concept,” said Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven. “I can’t say anything until I see if it is proposed or not.”
“Superior Court Judge Dismisses Doctors’ Request to Prescribe Lethal Medication to Terminally Ill”
( Hartford Courant – - June 8, 2010 )
Judge wrote that the term “suicide” is intended to include “self-killing” and that the law does not make any exceptions for doctors who help someone commit suicide. More