Connecticut Joint Public Health Committee Holds Marathon Hearing on End-of-Life Legislation

Supporters deliver emotionally compelling testimony about urgent need for passage of bill
March 22, 2018

Compassion & Choices and its Connecticut supporters testified yesterday before the state legislature’s Joint Public Health Committee in support of legislation that would authorize medical aid in dying in Connecticut. Medical aid in dying gives mentally capable, terminally ill individuals with a prognosis of six months or less to live the option to request, obtain and self-ingest medication to die peacefully in their sleep if their suffering becomes unbearable.

The bill, HB 5417, An Act Concerning End of Life Options, is championed by Joint Public Health Committee House Chair Representative Jonathan Steinberg (Westport). The bill is modeled after the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which has been successfully implemented for more than 20 years with no record of abuse or misuse.

Advocates and people living with terminal illnesses from across the state attended the hearing that lasted over 10 hours. Many hearing witnesses told powerful stories about why lawmakers should act urgently to pass medical aid-in-dying legislation to benefit terminally ill Connecticut residents who by definition only have six months or less to live.

“I would do anything to beat this deadly disease, but I know ALS will eventually take my life,” said Mike Mizzone, a terminally ill Orange resident. “I urge the committee to approve this option so Connecticut residents like me can have peace of mind in our final days.”

A 2015 Quinnipiac University poll found that 63% of Connecticut residents support medical aid in dying.

“It was touching to hear the testimonies of terminally ill Connecticut residents and their families,” said Tim Appleton, Connecticut Campaign Manager for Compassion & Choices and a resident of South Windsor. “We are grateful to Health Committee Co-Chairman Steinberg for his ongoing work to make this compassionate option available to those Connecticut residents who are racing against the clock for relief.”

The Connecticut Joint Public Health Committee last held a hearing on medical aid-in-dying legislation in 2015. According to a 2013 Purple Strategies poll, 65 percent of Connecticut residents support the option of medical aid in dying. This majority support holds across all age groups (<50: 73%, 50-64: 64%, 65+: 62%), among Catholics (61%), Republicans (59%) and people with disabilities (65%).

If HB 5417 is enacted into law, it would make Connecticut the eighth jurisdiction in the nation to authorize medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option. Oregon, where medical aid in dying has been authorized for two decades, has been joined since then by Washington State, Montana, Vermont, California, Colorado and Washington, D.C.

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