Public Health Committee hears testimony from supporters of controversial Aid-in-Dying bill

Health

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The Public Health Committee heard public testimony in support of the proposed Aid-in-Dying Bill in Connecticut over Zoom Friday morning.

Should a person, who is terminally ill be allowed to request assistance in dying? It’s a question lawmakers have taken up a handful of times. Lawmakers held a public hearing on the matter Friday.

Drawing passionate supporters and opponents. When this bill has come up in years past it never made it out of the first hurdle, which is out of committee. But the co-chair of this committee says he’s confident this could be the year.

Brittany Maynard and her husband, Dan, packed up from California and moved to Oregon in 2014 so she could die a “gentle” medicated death. Others from across the country all too familiar with end-of-life suffering describing the pain.

“On July 15th, 2019 struggling for each breath, Mike died of asphyxia and it was a nightmare. There are too many terminally ill dying people in our great state unnecessarily suffering at the end of life,” said a supporter.

The Public Health Committee held a public hearing Friday on the Aid in Dying bill. It would allow physician-assisted “gentle” dying for terminally ill patients. It’s legal in some 10 states.

“Even though this may represent a very small group of people who are in the difficult circumstance to make this choice we want to afford them that choice as a matter of compassion and mercy,” said State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D, Westport.

Advocates say it’s even more relevant during the pandemic.

“We spent the last year watching a half a million people across the U.S. die terrible end of lives,” said Kim Callinan, CEO, Compassion & Choices.

But opponents include the Catholic Church and disability advocates. Concerns are wide-ranging. Some fear it promotes suicide and allow people who benefit from a loved one’s passing to sign off on it.

“Is there any evidence to show that with the passage of this bill that we might be normalizing suicide in our culture?” said Rep. Anne Dauphinais, R, Killingly.

“All this does is put the state in the inevitable position of deciding who lives and who dies,” said Executive Director of the Catholic Conference, Christopher Healy, when the bill was proposed back in 2020. “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.”

Right now, there are eight states including New Jersey, Vermont, and Maine, that have passed laws allowing the practice.

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