Families make another push for legal 'medical aid in dying' in Connecticut

Families hung photos of their loves around the Legislative Office Building. Relatives said some, like Clare Marie Philips, suffered agonizing pain in their final months.

John Craven

Jan 18, 2023, 10:30 PM

Updated 488 days ago

Share:

Terminally ill patients and their families launched a new push Wednesday to legalize doctor-assisted suicide in Connecticut. But after nearly two decades of failed attempts, the controversial “aid in dying” legislation faces an uphill battle.
Families hung photos of their loves around the Legislative Office Building. Relatives said some, like Clare Marie Philips, suffered agonizing pain in their final months.
"My mom crawled out in the early hours of the morning to our backyard shed and shot herself,” said Philips’ daughter Kira.
In Connecticut, right-to-die legislation has failed 15 times since 1994. Opponents argue that patients could be pressured to die or rush into a hasty decision.
"The push for assisted suicide is not about pain,” said Cathy Ludlum with Second Thoughts Connecticut, which has fought the legislation for years. “It's about loss; it's about fear of disability."

In 2019 and 2021, assisted suicide bills failed to advance out of the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee. This session, advocates are hoping for a better outcome with several new members.
"The bill that we are looking at this year is going to be very different from the one for the past many years – five, six years,” said state Sen. Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor).
Anwar co-chairs the legislature’s Public Health committee, which voted to draft a bill on Wednesday. Exact details are still being worked out, Anwar said.
Last year's legislation offered key protections. Only those with six months to live would have qualified. Patients would have to make two different requests – in writing – at least 15 days apart. Plus, two different doctors would have to sign off on the request and certify that the patient is mentally competent.
But for critics, the guardrails aren’t enough.

"If I was found to be competent, I just need another doctor to sign off,” said state Sen. Heather Somers (R-Groton). “I don't have to know that doctor. It could be a doctor that I just met literally five minutes ago."

Ten states and Washington, D.C. already allow medical aid-in-dying. Supporters insist it's safe.
"Since 1997, when Oregon enacted the first aid-in-dying law in the country, there has not been a single case of abuse, misuse or coercion attributed to the law,” said Tim Appleton with Compassion and Choices, which is pushing for the law.
For Jill Hammerberg of Farmington, it’s too late. She lost her husband after a 17-year battle with prostate cancer.
"I was awakened that night by unearthly sounds, as Mark fought for breath and crawled on our bed in search of relief,” Hammerberg said.


More from News 12