End-of-Life Legislation Receives Hearing by Rhode Island Senate Committee on Judiciary

Supporters deliver emotionally compelling testimony about urgent need for passage of bill
April 26, 2019

Compassion & Choices and its Rhode Island supporters testified before the Senate Committee on Judiciary in support of legislation that would authorize medical aid in dying in the state. 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 Lila Manfield Sapinsley Compassionate Care Act (SB 320/SB157), is championed by Senator Gayle Goldin (D- District 3, Providence). It was introduced on January 24 by Senators Goldin, Coyne, Euer and Miller. 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.

Debbie Flitman, Cranston resident, testified: “My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July 2004. Exactly 7 months later, one day before my birthday, she passed away – and it wasn’t peacefully. My mother told me months before she passed away that she did not want to live the last days of her life confined to a bed experiencing her organs breaking down one by one. She wanted to be in charge of her exit. But because a compassionate care act was non-existent, she wasn’t afforded this option. I am confident that when people are well informed, and medical providers are permitted to write the necessary prescriptions, the end stages of one’s life will not have to be one filled with pain as my mother’s life was. Similar bills work in other states, it can work here, too.”

“We thank Senator Goldin and the cosponsors who have brought this legislation forward for their advocacy on behalf of Rhode Island residents who need access to this compassionate option now,” said Tim Appleton, Field Director for Compassion & Choices. “It was an emotionally powerful experience to hear so many terminally ill Rhode Island residents and their families tell their stories and so strongly voice their support for this important legislation.”

Currently, nine jurisdictions have medical aid-in-dying laws: Oregon, California, Washington, Colorado, Montana, Vermont, the District of Columbia, Hawai‘i and New Jersey. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed his state’s medical aid-in-dying legislation into law. Once the New Jersey law takes effect in August, more than one-fifth of the nation’s population (21%) will have access to this end-of-life care option.

Contact: Tina Posterli, 516-404-2265, [email protected]

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