CT Public Health Committee Approves Aid-in-Dying Bill for Floor Votes in House, Senate

Advocates Praise Committee’s Approval of Bill for First Time Ever, Urge Lawmakers to Pass Bill

Advocates for expanding and improving end-of-life care options praised the Connecticut Public Health Committee for approving in a bipartisan 24-9 vote today a bill for House and Senate floor action that would give terminally ill state residents the option of medical aid in dying for the first time ever. The bill has been introduced at least 14 times since 1994 without receiving approval by any committee.

“I so appreciate the Public Health Committee responding to the pleas of terminally ill people like me who desperately need the option of medical aid in dying so they don’t have to suffer needlessly at life’s end,” said Glastonbury resident Kim Hoffman, who has endured many years of debilitating treatments for stage 4 ovarian cancer that has spread to one of her breasts, her liver, lungs, and skin. “Out of care and respect, I implore the House and Senate to act with compassion and pass this much-needed legislation before it is too late for us.”

“The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the profound tragedy of loved ones dying alone, in a hospital or nursing home, without the care and comfort of loved ones surrounding them,” said Compassion & Choices President and CEO Kim Callinan. “This pandemic also demonstrates the fragility of life and the limits of modern medicine to relieve suffering. A medical aid-in-dying law in Connecticut could help more people access the full range of end-of-life care options, such as hospice and palliative care, as it is doing in other states with medical aid-in-dying laws.”

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.

“I am still haunted by my mother’s pleading eyes, her groans, her black limbs from lack of circulation, and the inability for any person to know what was causing her pain and distress,” said Fairfield resident Jennifer Barahona, a licensed clinical social worker, whose mother voluntarily decided to stop taking nourishment through her feeding tube to end her suffering from ALS. “To our family’s horror, she lived for 2-½ unbearable weeks this way. I urge our lawmakers to pass this compassionate legislation because we each deserve, if we choose, to have a humane, dignified, and well-planned transition from this life.”

The Connecticut Nurses Association endorsed HB 6425 at a hearing on the bill last week before the Public Health Committee: “We believe that HB 6425 protects the patient’s right to self-determination and provides appropriate and sufficient mechanisms and safeguards for the patient, attending physician and other members of the health care team to unequivocally assure all parties wishes are handled in a legal and ethical manner.”

In 2019, the Connecticut State Medical Society dropped its opposition to medical aid in dying and adopted a policy of “engaged neutrality” that “...acknowledges that principled and ethical physicians hold a broad range of positions and opinions on this issue. We are committed to protecting our members’ freedom to decide what medical aid-in-dying options to provide to patients…”

“The fact is that anyone, you or I, young or old, our friends and family, sick or healthy, can become terminally ill at any time in our lives,” said Weston resident Dr. Jeff Gardere, a board-certified clinical psychologist and an ordained minister. “That is why I urge our lawmakers to make this end-of-life care option to gently end intolerable suffering available for the people of Connecticut now.”

“The feeling of disappointment that came over me when I couldn’t give my cancer-stricken wife Pam what she so desperately wanted, a peaceful death, haunts me still,” said Tony Award-winning actor James Naughton, a lifelong Connecticut resident who lives in Weston. “I urge our lawmakers to pass this bill so not one more Connecticut resident has to suffer needlessly at the end of life.”