March 7, 2022

Rep. Steinberg, Sen. Haskell Help Pass Dignity in Death Legislation in Public Health Committee

Today, State Representative Jonathan Steinberg and State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport) applauded the Public Health Committee’s bipartisan support of legislation that would provide terminally ill patients with options about the time, manner and setting of their passing. Now in its tenth year, this legislation is gaining momentum in the General Assembly and passed the committee by a vote of 21-9. With bipartisan support, Connecticut may soon join a number of states across the country that offer this small measure of comfort to those who are strugging with a terminal diagnosis.

“We’re gratified that the Aid in Dying legislation passed out of the committee once again by a wide, bipartisan margin,” said Rep. Steinberg. “We had a good, if somewhat emotional, debate. The people of the state overwhelmingly support enabling this end of life option, and it’s time for us to join other states in making it available.”

“This bill is all about allowing patients to be the author of their own final chapter,” said Sen. Haskell. “I’m so grateful to the constituents who participated in the public hearing and shared their personal stories about watching a loved one suffer, or suffering themselves, with a terminal diagnosis. Their stories clearly had an impact on our committee, and I’m hopeful that we will finally give patients this choice. With many safeguards in place, it’s time for Connecticut to join the growing list of states that permit aid-in-dying. We’ve heard from too many terminally-ill patients that they will have to leave Connecticut in order to pursue this option. Let’s allow these folks to spend their final days in their own home, surrounded by loved ones.”

Senate Bill 88, “An Act Concerning Aid In Dying For Terminally Ill Patients,” would allow terminally ill adults with less than six months to live to voluntarily request aid in dying, where they would then receive medical assistance to end their lives. The voluntary option would be available only to adults of sound mind who would be required to make three total requests over a period of weeks and can rescind that request at any time.

At least nine stages currently have dignity in death laws; Oregon compiles an annual report of those who opt into that state’s dignity in death program. In 2020, the most recent month where statistics were available, 370 people received prescriptions to end their lives; 245 chose to end their lives, meaning 40% of patients making requests in that year did not choose to proceed at that time. Roughly 85% of those patients suffered from cancer, heart disease or neurological disease; 81% were over the age of 65.