Connecticut Debates Legalizing Physician-Assisted Suicide

Needle - syringeHARTFORD, Conn. — Lawmakers in Connecticut are considering a newly-proposed bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide in the state.

A public hearing was held on Wednesday at the Capitol Complex where those on both sides of the issue came to speak their mind about the matter. Assisted suicide bills have been presented to the legislature in the past, but have failed to make it past committee.

This year’s proposal, HB 7015, would allow terminally ill patients who wish to end their lives to submit two requests to a physician. Two witness with no personal interest in the situation and no relation to the patient would also be required to be present. Upon approval, the doctor would then write a prescription for a lethal dose of medication, which the patient would ingest and die.

Rep. Kelly Luxenberg (D-Manchester) spoke in favor of the measure, explaining that her father drowned himself after a battle with Parkinson’s disease.

“He never learned to swim and was intensely fearful of the water. So there is an even sadder irony in the way in which he chose to die,” she told the Judiciary Committee and those gathered. “Parkinson’s stripped my father of a life with dignity. Wouldn’t it have been great if in death his dignity could have been regained?”

Resident Charles Silbert also spoke in support of the bill, stating that he had seen both of his parents die, and now may lose his own life to prostate cancer.

“I’ve never been afraid to die, but I am afraid of how I may die,” he said. “I’ve seen my mother die a bad death and I’ve seen other people die a bad death. … Connecticut, the Constitution State, should join the five other states that guarantee the ultimate liberty, the right to die with dignity.”

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But others decried the legislation, stating that it could create a slippery slope where people could be pushed to end their lives because of an adverse or terminal diagnosis.

“People with disabilities, advocates against elder abuse are rightly concerned that the ‘right to die’ could become a ‘duty to die,’” Peter Wolfgang of the Family Institute of Connecticut told those gathered.

“Is it acceptable for someone’s life to be shortened because people may be actually on a wrong prognosis, or because they have been pressed to make this final move?” asked Cathy Ludlum of Second Thoughts Connecticut, who is disabled.

Rep. Bruce Morris (D-Norwalk) made similar statements, noting that some who have been labeled as terminal have overcome their disease.

“There is no exact science to the term (terminal) and there have been people who were deemed terminal and recovered,” he said.

Resident Kerry Costigan ultimately told the Committee that suicide in any form and for any reason is morally sinful.

“There is no dignity and honor in suicide and we all know that,” she said. “There is a natural course to life. We all begin to die the day we’re born.”

“Dying in this manner changes the natural course of life and death, but most of all it’s murder,” Costigan said.

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