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CT Aid-in-Dying Bill Supporters Tell Tragic Personal Stories to Urge Lawmakers to Pass it

Hold Zoom News Conference to Preview Moving Testimony Before Marathon Bill Hearing

Supporters of a Connecticut bill (HB 6425) that would allow the option of medical aid in dying for terminally ill adults pleaded with state lawmakers to pass the bill in 2021 to prevent any more residents from dying with needless suffering. They held an 8:15 am Zoom news conference to preview their testimony before the marathon bill hearing before the Public Health Committee with a 9 am start time and 126 scheduled testifiers.

“I am confident that this will be the year [to advance the bill],” said Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, (Westport), co-chair of the Public Health Committee. “Our prospects are as good as they have ever been.”

“Unfortunately I was recently diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer for which there currently is no effective treatment and which typically ends, I am told, in a slow death by liver failure,” said Avon attorney Christopher J. Rossetti. “I see nothing glorious or redemptive in a prolonged period of suffering antecedent to my death. Please pass this bill and thereby allow me, and so many others with incurable late-stage diseases, to die with the assistance of medical science in peace in the place we call our home.”

ALS patient Mike Mizzone testifying at 2018 hearing in support of Connecticut medical aid-in-dying bill

“On July 15th, 2019, struggling for each breath, Mike died of asphyxia and it was a nightmare,” said Orange resident Jennifer Mizzone, whose husband, Mike, had ALS and testified in support of medical aid-in-dying in 2018. “He suffered unnecessarily, as the reasonable option of aid in dying was not afforded him, as it is in 9 states and Washington, DC, including neighboring New Jersey. So I ask the Committee why does someone with ALS in Orange, NJ have more options at the end of life than in Orange, CT?”

By a 2-1 margin (63% vs. 31%), Connecticut voters support medical aid in dying, including a majority of Republicans, Democrats, independents, men, women, and age groups, according to a 2015 Quinnipiac University poll, the most recent poll on the issue in Connecticut. The most recent national Gallup poll on the issue in May 2020, shows 74% of Americans support medical aid in dying, a 6-point jump from the 68% support in Gallup’s pre-pandemic poll in May 2019.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the fragility of our lives and the limits of modern medicine to relieve end-of-life suffering,” said Compassion & Choices President/CEO Kim Callinan. “One important step toward reducing needless end-of-life suffering is authorizing medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option for terminally ill, mentally capable adults in Connecticut. Washington, D.C. and nine states allow medical aid in dying, including three Connecticut neighbors: Maine, New Jersey, and Vermont.

A zip code should not dictate whether you die peacefully or painfully.”

“Even though medical aid in dying may not have been helpful to many COVID patients because of the rapid progression of their symptoms, especially in the initial surges, the point is that many of these patients  died in a hospital isolated from their loved ones,” said Weston resident Dr. Jeff Gardere, a board certified clinical psychologist and an ordained minister.  “There are too many terminally ill adults who passed away advocating for passage of this law. We owe it to all of them to provide an end-of-life care option that offers peace and comfort. The time is now!!!!”

“After her diagnosis, she [my wife Pam] and I did everything we could to try to beat it, including commuting to San Antonio, Texas every week for 8 months to participate in a new clinical trial,” said Tony Award-winning actor James Naughton, a lifelong Connecticut resident who lives in Weston. “…when she couldn’t endure it any longer, and was finally at the end of her life, she said to me, ‘Jimmy, I don’t want to wake up anymore.’  She wanted, finally, to die.”

“I have no idea how or when I’m going to die,” said author, Broadway and TV actor Michael Tucker, who lives in Easton. “But if Connecticut passes the medical aid-in-dying bill…then my life will be better now.  I urge our lawmakers to pass this compassionate legislation this year because terminally ill Connecticut residents have no time to spare.”

“Every patient that I have met has demonstrated strength, courage, resolve, and immense gratitude,” said Dr. Deborah Pasik, a New Jersey physician who prescribes medical aid in dying for terminally ill patients in that state. “Letters from their surviving loved ones describing the events surrounding the planned deaths consistently describe a feeling of peace, families are brought together, and life is celebrated. I feel honored to have known all of them and feel I have fulfilled my oath as a physician, as I have performed the ultimate act of compassion.”

“It was absolutely heartbreaking to watch [my 29-year-old wife] Brittany suffer a series of paralyzingly painful seizures that increased in frequency and intensity, and the symptoms were only getting worse every day,” said Dan Diaz, who had to move with Brittany to Oregon so she could use that state’s Death with Dignity law to gently end her suffering from brain cancer because their home state of California did not have a medical aid-in-dying law at the time. “No one should have to move to another state to avoid needless suffering. And most people are unable to do that. That’s why I urge Connecticut lawmakers to pass this compassionate bill.”