End-of-Life Legislation Receives Hearing by Connecticut Joint Public Health Committee

Award-winning actor, James Naughton joins supporters in delivering emotionally compelling testimony about urgent need for passage of bill
March 19, 2019

Sharon Hines, Middletown resident living with stage IV lung cancer, testifies in support of medical aid-in-dying legislation.

Compassion & Choices and its Connecticut supporters testified 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 5898, 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.

Award-winning actor and Westport resident, James Naughton, whose wife Pam Parsons died from terminal pancreatic cancer, joined many supporters in telling powerful stories about why lawmakers should act urgently to pass medical aid-in-dying legislation to benefit terminally ill Connecticut residents with six months or less to live.

James Naughton testified: “Despite having the best care possible, terminally-ill individuals will come to a point where they need options at the end of life. My wife Pam had all the treatment options at her fingertips while her pancreatic cancer was still treatable, but her last four months were extremely rough, she wished she had a way to end all the suffering she was experiencing. I urge the committee to approve this option so other terminally ill Connecticut residents can have peace of mind in their final days.”

“Kim Callinan, Chief Executive Officer at Compassion & Choices, stated: “In just the last three years, four new jurisdictions — California, Colorado, Washington, DC and Hawai‘i —  have authorized medical aid in dying. These advancements demonstrate the strong national and state-based public support that exists for this practice. Medical aid in dying is transforming end-of-life care in the same way childbirth care was transformed decades ago. The terminally ill residents of Connecticut deserve to join this growing movement and have a voice in how they live the final chapter of their lives and how they die.”

“We thank Health Committee Co-Chairman Steinberg for his continued advocacy on behalf of Connecticut residents who don’t have time to wait yet another legislative session for access to this compassionate option,” said  Maria Spencer, Connecticut Campaign Manager for Compassion & Choices. “It was an emotionally powerful experience to hear so many terminally ill Connecticut residents and their families tell their stories and so strongly voice their support for this important legislation.”

The Connecticut Joint Public Health Committee last held a hearing on medical aid-in-dying legislation in 2018. According to a 2018 Quinnipiac University poll, 63 percent of Connecticut voters support the option of medical aid in dying. This majority support holds across all party, age and gender groups.

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