Death with Dignity in Connecticut

Death with Dignity National Center Poster (Image Source: Guidestar.org)

Death with Dignity National Center Poster (Image Source: Guidestar.org)

While in London, just two weeks ago, a headline caught my attention. The Times of London mentioned the debate on Assisted Dying, known here in the US as the Death with Dignity Act.

The article claimed that, “Church leaders are out of touch with their congregations on the issue of assisted dying, according to research that found about 70 per cent of believers want to see a change in the law.”

In that group are Jews, Catholics and Anglicans who all want to see assisted dying legalized. 70% is a pretty big percentage.

Doctor Jack Kevorkian on the May 31 1993 cover of Time Magazine (Image Source: Time Content)

Doctor Jack Kevorkian on the May 31 1993 cover of Time Magazine (Image Source: Time Content)

It is amazing what a quarter of a century can do to social mores. It was only 24 years ago that the majority of people viewed Jack Kevorkian as a macabre figure, earning him the moniker, “Doctor Death.” The man actually pioneered the way for those who wished to end their suffering and those who wanted to help them.

Between the years of 1990 and 2011 Kevorkian claimed to have helped 130 people die. These were terminally ill people, most of whom he interviewed on tape and asked why they wanted to die.

The people Kevorkian assisted in dying wanted to end their suffering. In fact, one patient stated clearly that she, “wanted to be put to sleep.” The word “suffer” is used a lot by his patients. A documentary details Kevorkian’s journey through the courts, time and time again, in addition to some footage of patient interviews he conducted.

Physical pain due to cancer or other diseases among the terminally ill in Kevorkian’s interviews brings these people to the brink. The brink is where they look forward and see nothing but increased levels of pain, and look back and see the life that they had. They know they are not going to get better. They know that their death will be painful. And so, they chose the Kevorkian method of assisted dying.

Here in the US there are currently three states that have a Death with Dignity Act. Oregon implemented it first in 1997. Washington State was next in 2008 and Vermont initiated the act in 2013. It is on the bill in Connecticut. Known as The Physician Assisted Death Bill #5326 Bill, “An Act Concerning Compassionate Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Patients,” and uses the Oregon, Washington State and Vermont acts as models. There are many articles and there’s lots of research on assisted dying.

The Hippocratic Oath (Image Source: Nova)

The Hippocratic Oath (Image Source: Nova)

The act works in the three sates that use it because even though the Hippocratic Oath taken by all doctors insists that they do no harm, the physician writes the prescription for the medication, but will not administer it. The medication is self-administered. The medication is usually mixed by a Death with Dignity volunteer who is also a mentor for those who are dying.

Of course, people have many questions regarding the act. The Death with Dignity Act can only be used by a person who is  terminally ill, and already dying, and given a diagnosis of six months to llive. Physicians have the right to refuse to write the required prescription. I fail to see why they would refuse.

The morphine used to treat pain experienced by Cancer patients, when increased, decreases the mind’s ability to control the involuntary action of breathing. The mind forgets to tell the body to breathe. Is this not, in some way, assisted dying?

Here in Connecticut the bill had a public hearing on March 17, 2014. Currently it waits for the next House session to either be passed or not. The specifics of the bill can be read by clicking here. It is summarized as,

“AN ACT CONCERNING COMPASSIONATE AID IN DYING FOR TERMINALLY ILL PATIENTS.
To allow a physician to prescribe medication at the request of a mentally competent patient that has a terminal illness that such patient may self-administer to bring about his or her death.”

Initially, I thought that this act was a slippery slope, but it isn’t. The Oregon, Washington State and Vermont models are carefully crafted to make sure that only the mentally well but terminally ill over the age of 18 can choose to die with dignity.

In a documentary entitled How to Die in Oregon, Cody Curtis, aged 54 and dying of liver cancer altered my thinking with one very simple statement. She says, “I grew up in the country. We put our dogs and horses down. We didn’t let animals suffer.” (Start at 5:32)

You may become proactive in the Death with Dignity Campaign by signing this petition and urging elected officials to pass the bill.

If you are in one of the few US states that permit death with dignity, or physician assisted deaths, here is where you can locate councilors etc.

https://www.compassionandchoices.org/

If you would like to get involved and petition your local state representatives to pass House Bill 5326 or if you want to know if the state you live in is pushing for Physician Assisted Deaths click the link below.

http://www.deathwithdignity.org/aboutus

 

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4 thoughts on “Death with Dignity in Connecticut

    • It wouldn’t be an easy decision. I actually emailed our State senator a week ago about the status of the bill here and he was very wishy washy with his response. Typical Political answer which left me no wiser as to how he felt about the bill himself. For Christians who feel that only God should end life, my answer is this: If “God” had not wanted humans to have choice, why did he put a tree in the Garden of Eden that bore “Forbidden Fruit?” Because you’re supposed to have choices.

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