CT aid-in-dying law fails to gain enough support
HARTFORD — Connecticut will not be one of the state’s to adopt aid-in-dying legislation as its chief proponent threw in the towel Monday, not allowing the bill to come up for vote in front of the Public Health Committee.
“We just didn’t have the votes,” Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, co-chairman of the committee said.
He said it also won’t be an issue next year since the membership of the committee won’t change.
“It was close — as close as we’ve ever gotten,” Steinberg said. “Obviously it’s an issue that has strong passions on both sides.”
Steinberg said while things could change the most likely scenario for the legislation eventually being passed is with a new General Assembly- which won’t be until January of 2021.
The bill failed to survive the committee process in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, and now 2019.
The legislation would have allowed a physician to prescribe medication at the request of a mentally competent patient with six months to live.
Supporters of the legislation believe it had a better chance this year to become law because a past opponent has decided to remain neutral this year.
The Connecticut State Medical Society has adopted a position of “engaged neutrality,” which means it’s leaving it up to its member physicians.
Also, just last week, the legislature in nearby New Jersey passed similar legislation, making it the eighth state in the country that has passed the legislation.
Having a nearby state vote in favor of the law fueled the hopes of supporters in Connecticut.
One of the proponents of the bill who spoke at the public hearing in favor of the legislation, was an onlooker Monday at the Legislative Office Building as the committee failed to even take a vote. Tim Appleton, campaign manager for Compassion & Choices in Connecticut, said the non-vote “was beyond disappointing.”
“This result will leave terminally-ill people who begged lawmakers for this right, without a choice at the end of their lives. It is especially unfortunate in a year when the bill came so far with so much grassroots support,” Appleton said.
But despite hearing Steinberg’s prediction that the bill likely won’t go far next year, Appleton vowed that the fight will continue.
“While many of the supporters of the bill who brought their stories to the public hearing last month will get no relief, let’s be clear: this bill will become law in Connecticut someday soon,” Appleton said. “After two decades of experience with the law in Oregon, without any of the dire consequences predicted by opponents, legislatures across the country are passing aid-in-dying bills, most recently in New Jersey. Connecticut will do the right thing.”
In Oregon since the law was passed in 1997, prescriptions have been written for a total of 2,217 people and 1,459 have died from ingesting the medications.
Aid in dying is legal in the District of Columbia and seven states: California, Montana, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington — and once the governor of New Jersey signs the bill as he has promised — it will be eight.
New York is also considering legislation, and efforts in Maryland failed last week on a tied Senate vote.