The Connecticut legislature yesterday defeated a bill that would have targeted disabled and elderly people with assisted suicide. The Nutmeg state follows Maryland and New Mexico this year in defeating measures to legalize assisted suicide, while New Jersey has approved a measure that is awaiting signature from its governor.
Had Connecticut voted in favor of the legislation, it would have become the 7th state to legalize assisted suicide. Six states (California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont) and Washington D.C. permit the dangerous practice of allowing physicians to write lethal prescriptions to certain groups of persons to kill themselves.
Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition was delighted by the news.
“It is great news that Connecticut once again defeated the assisted suicide bill,” he said. “There are many people who have worked for many years to continue defeating assisted suicide in Connecticut. A special “shout out” goes to the efforts of the Second Thoughts Connecticut disability rights group. Thank you again to everyone who continue to commit to battling assisted suicide. Unlike the assisted suicide lobby, our people are volunteers.”
It is unlikely that assisted suicide bill has a chance at passing in the legislative session next year. State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, a co-chair of the Public Health committee told Jenna Carlesso from the CTMirror:
“strongly held” religious beliefs among lawmakers, coupled with concerns from people with disabilities, prevented the bill from advancing to the House floor.
The bill’s chances of success next year also are low, Steinberg said, since several members are holding firm in their opposition.
“Modifying the bill in and of itself would not necessarily change any votes. So I think we would probably be looking to a new legislature,” he said.
There was a debate within the medical community on whether assisted suicide is appropriate.
This past February, the Connecticut State Medical Society (CSMS) abandoned its long-held stance of opposition to physician-assisted suicide for a position they term “engaged neutrality.” However, some physicians who treat patients at the end of life, and others, have expressed well-founded concerns about how a policy that is anything short of clear opposition would affect their practice.
Last week, hospice physician Dr. Joseph Andrews, Jr. announced his resignation from the Connecticut State Medical Society. Dr. Andrews cited the Hippocratic Oath he took 51 years ago and argued that there is “no effective or practical way to grant a ‘right’” to a small subset of individuals choosing death without calls for this door to open wider as a general right for all.
Dr. Andrews predicts that the legalization and normalization of assisted suicide as a medical practice would corrode his doctor-patient relationship:
“Once the door is opened here, it will open wider and wider. This explains the extraordinary fear and anxiety among people with progressive, chronic, non-fatal illnesses. They wisely fear the creeping growth of assisted dying and are acutely aware that politicians and their physician enablers will start ‘quality of life’ discussions which may result in curtailed access to ‘futile care.’”
“Disabled people can judge their own quality of life, and they remind us that in a good society the weak are safe and the strong are just. Disabilities concentrate the mind wonderfully: behind the ‘quality of life’ smokescreen they see shadows of the Nuremberg laws and the ‘cleansing’ from society of ‘life unworthy of life.’”
Oregon was the first state to legalize assisted suicide and the number of patients have been killed since then continues to increase.
In Oregon, there were 168 reported assisted suicide deaths in 2018, up from 158 in 2017. As 249 lethal prescriptions were obtained, and the “ingestion status” is not always known, the actual number of deaths may be higher.
The relief of unbearable suffering is the most common argument put forward for euthanasia and assisted suicide, but the data from Oregon shows that it is not the primary reason people chose to end their lives. The three most frequently reported end-of-life concerns were loss of autonomy (91.7%), decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (90.5%), and loss of dignity (66.7%). Inadequate pain control was mentioned by only 31.2%.
In fact, the data from Oregon adds to the concerning evidence that assisted suicide deaths are not the peaceful end promised by advocates, but slow and painful. The report says that the time of death after taking lethal drugs ranged from 9 minutes to 14 hours. When dying from DCMP2 (a lethal drug cocktail that was invented when the preferred alternatives became too expensive), death took an average of 2 hours, with the longest time taking 21 hours.