By SUSAN HAIGH
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Tuesday he hasn’t yet decided whether to support a bill being considered by Connecticut lawmakers that would permit a physician to prescribe medication to help a dying patient end his or her own life.
The issue is fraught with fears and taboos, both religious and societal, but it also “raises very substantial questions about the ability of one to control their own destiny,” Malloy said, calling it “a very complex and difficult issue.”
Malloy recalled how his own mother, a nurse, died while being cared for in a hospice.
“She did not end her own life,” he said. “But I suppose if she had decided to, as a son, I probably would have supported her decision.”
Proponents of the bill are working with leaders of the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee to clarify certain parts of the proposed legislation, which would apply to mentally competent patients with a terminal illness who are able to self-administer the life-ending drug.
Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, a chief proponent of the bill, said lawmakers are trying to tighten some of the bill’s language, such as how and when a patient is required to get a second opinion regarding their diagnosis. She said the lawmakers are looking at ways to make sure the patient has ample time to consider or reconsider whether to seek the drug, a major concern for opponents of the original bill who say it goes beyond laws in two states where assisted suicide is legal and there are waiting periods.
The committee has until April 5 to act on the bill, sending it to the full House of Representatives for further action.
“I’m hopeful they’ll put it up for a vote and vote it out of committee,” said Ritter, who said she was impressed by the level of discussion about the topic and believes that adding more clarity to the bill is important to many of the committee members.
Ritter said the new language that spells out the various patient protections may ultimately persuade the governor to sign the bill into law, should it reach his desk.
“You really do need to see and understand those before you come to a conclusion,” she said.
The socially conservative Family Institute of Connecticut, which opposes the legislation, issued a “Call to Action” on Tuesday, sending emails to supporters urging them to call every member of the Public Health Committee and ask them to oppose the bill.
“If they do not vote on it by April 5th, the assisted suicide bill, will `die in committee,”’ according to the group’s email.
While advocates of the legislation refer to it as “compassionate aid in dying” for terminally ill patients, the Family Institute advises its members to tell the legislators that it is really assisted suicide.
“If they say it is not an assisted suicide bill, stand your ground and tell them you want them to vote no,” the email said.
Besides socially conservative groups, advocates for people with disabilities and the Connecticut State Medical Society have voiced opposition to the proposed legislation. In written testimony, the medical society, which represents nearly 7,000 physicians and physicians in training, said the concept of physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally inconsistent with the Hippocratic Oath, the bedrock of physician ethics.
“Laws sanctioning the use of physician-assisted suicide undermine the foundation of the physician-patient relationship, which is grounded in trust and the knowledge that the physician is working wholeheartedly for the patient’s well-being,” the society wrote.