Death with dignity/assisted suicide legislation defeated

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Connecticut will not further pursue a bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide bill this year, after a House committee voted April 6 to prevent the bill from coming up for a vote.

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The defeat is the latest in a string of victories for a coalition of disability advocacy groups, who were instrumental in defeating a similar Death with Dignity initiative in Massachusetts in November 2012. By a 51 to 49 percent margin, Massachusetts voters rejected an initiative that would have made the state the third to legalize the procedure.

“There is no meaningful protection in any of these bills for people vulnerable to coercion and abuse,” said Diane Coleman, president and CEO of Not Dead Yet, in a news release. “How would a doctor observe coercion that occurs at home behind closed doors? And with no independent witness required at the death, we have no way of knowing what really happened.”

In November 2011, a coalition of disability advocacy groups formed an organization called Second Thoughts, a reference to their view that many patients would have “second thoughts” about requesting assisted suicide if they were provided better health care and daily living services.

The Connecticut measure was modeled after similar laws in Oregon and Washington. The laws’ safeguards include requirements that patients seeking life-ending medication go through a 15-day waiting period, that two doctors verify that the terminally ill patient is mentally competent, and the doctors provide information on other forms of end-of-life care.

“’We should definitely be pursuing the most effective end-of-life palliative care models, the things that are available to alleviate suffering and help people feel supported,’ as well as long-term care that makes people ‘feel valued; and helping people ‘feel appreciated and supported so they don’t have to look towards death as a solution to suffering,'” Cathy Ludlum, a member of Second Thoughts Connecticut, told the Middletown Press.