HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Should a person who is terminally ill be allowed to request an assisted suicide?
Jonathan Steinberg, co-chair of the state’s Public Health Committee said the issue of assisted suicide, or aid in dying, has been brought up five times in the last decade, and this year, he believes the public is ready for action.
“We are talking about a very small group of people who ought to have the right to chose what to do with their bodies at the end of life,” he said.
On Monday, the committee put the controversial issue on its agenda for debate, but some members were absent and they could not take a vote. Steinberg said the issue is worth fighting for.
Steinberg, who represents the 136th House District which includes Westport, said, “If people’s quality of life is at stake, I think they [legislative bills] are worth trying often.”
Bills that have been put before the legislature have contained language stating aid in dying will only be available for people who have six months or less to live. The patient must be in extreme pain.
They would be required to give both written and verbal consent and have two doctors sign off on the decision.
Representative Leslie Zupkus, a member of the health committee, works with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. He said they are very concerned that in the end, they will have no voice.
“I see people all the time with disabilities and sometimes they are taken that they can make decisions for themselves and other times that they can’t,” said Zupkus. “I just think it’s a process that nature has to take place and it’s not for a man or a person to decide.”
Chris Healy, who represents the Catholic Church, is against assisted suicide. The Executive Director of the Catholic Conference said all this does is put the state in the inevitable position of deciding who lives and who dies.
“We believe life is sacred from the beginning and all the way through and there are many ways for people to avoid pain and suffering with palliative care,” Healy said.
Last year  was the first time the Connecticut State Medical Society said it would remain neutral on the issue. The Public Health Committee chair expects to take up the issue again at the end of the week to see whether there is enough support to vote the idea out of committee.
Eight states — including New Jersey and Maine — allow for aid in dying.