Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Assisted Suicide Bill Dead!

Assisted suicide bill won't be voted on

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, March 25, 2014 - 7:32 pm EDT

http://www.therepublic.com/w/CT--Assisted-Suicide

HARTFORD, Connecticut — A bill that would allow Connecticut physicians to prescribe medication to help terminally ill patients end their lives won't be voted on during this year's legislative session, the co-chairman of the General Assembly's Public Health Committee said Tuesday.

Windham Rep. Susan Johnson said Tuesday there is not enough time to address various outstanding issues with the bill. This year's short legislative session ends May 7.

"We worked very hard on that bill and there's a lot of work left to do," Johnson said.

This marks the second year in a row that the Public Health Committee has held a public hearing on such legislation and committee members did not take a vote.

Johnson said the Judiciary Committee is better suited to tackle certain outstanding issues with the bill, such as determining a patient's competency, whether they're under any duress, and how they can be protected from people with criminal intentions.

"Those kinds of things need to be ironed out," she said.

Proponents vowed to return with another bill next year, when there will be a longer legislative session.

"I'm very sorry that we're not able to move the bill further this year," said Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford. "We heard from people who wanted it badly."

Ritter said she was pleased, however, by the attention paid to the issue this year, adding how "the discussion just exploded across the state." Tim Appleton, the state director of the advocacy group Compassion and Choices, said he expects support will grow more between now and next year's legislative session.

Opponents have questioned the level of support for the bill, claiming outside groups are pushing the issue in Connecticut. They've vowed to fight future bills.

"The collateral damage from legalizing assisted suicide — including massive elder abuse, the deadly mix with a cost-cutting health care system steering people to suicide, misdiagnosis and incorrect prognosis, suicide contagion, and disability discrimination in suicide prevention — is simply not fixable," said Stephen Mendelsohn, of Second Thoughts Connecticut.

[For a legal and policy analysis against the bill, please click here]

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Don't Make Oregon's Mistake

I am a doctor in Oregon, where physician assisted-suicide is legal. I understand that Connecticut’s legislature is considering taking a similar step.
I was first exposed to this issue in 1982, shortly before my first wife died of cancer. We had just visited her doctor. As we were leaving, he had suggested that she overdose herself on medication. I still remember the look of horror on her face. She said, “Ken, he wants me to kill myself.”
Our assisted-suicide law was passed in 1997. In 2000, one of my patients was adamant she would use our law. Over three or four visits, I stalled her and ultimately convinced her to be treated instead. Nearly 14 years later she is thrilled to be alive.
In Oregon, the combination of assisted-suicide legalization and prioritized medical care based on prognosis has created a danger for my patients on the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid). Helpful treatments are often not covered. The plan will cover the patient’s suicide.
For more details, read my affidavit filed on behalf of the Canadian government at http://maasdocuments.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/signed-stevens-aff-9-18-12.pdf
Protect your health care. Tell your legislators to vote no on assisted suicide. Don’t make Oregon’s mistake.
Kenneth Stevens
Sherwood, Ore.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

CONNECTICUT COURT DISMISSES “AID IN DYING” CASE

By Margaret Dore

On June 2, 2010, the Connecticut Superior Court dismissed Blick v. Connecticut, an "aid in dying" case.  "Aid in dying" is a euphemism for physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.[1]  As used in the case, aid in dying refered to physician-assisted suicide.

Case History
In Connecticut, assisting a suicide is prohibited by two statutes: Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-54a, which prohibits intentionally causing a suicide "by force, duress or deception"; and Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-56, which prohibits intentionally causing a suicide "other than by force, duress or deception." Neither statute contains an exception for physician-assisted suicide.

On October 7, 2009, the former Hemlock Society, now known as Compassion & Choices, announced the lawsuit.  The claim was that § 53a-56 does not reach a physician who provides "aid in dying" because aid in dying is not "suicide."  See Verified Complaint, ¶ 40.  The complaint also implied that the patients at issue would be "dying." This would not necessarily be the case. See Opinion letter here:  http://www.euthanasiaprevention.on.ca/ConnMemo02.pdf.
On June 2, 2010, the Court dismissed the case.  The Court specifically disagreed with the claim that "aid in dying" is not "suicide."  The Court stated: 
"[T]he legislature intended the statute to apply to physicians who assist a suicide and intended the term "suicide" to include self-killing by those who are suffering from unbearable terminal illness.
The language and legislative history of § 53a-56 compel the conclusion that the defendants [state’s attorneys] would not be acting in excess of their authority if they prosecuted the plaintiffs under § 53a-56 for providing 'aid in dying.'"[2] 
The Court also stated that the claim was not justiciable and that any change in the law would be a task for the legislature.[3]  The Court said that the legislature's participation was particularly important given "significant . . . concerns" about physician-assisted suicide.[4]  These concerns include whether assisted suicide "threatens . . . the poor, the elderly and the disabled."[5]
The Court also found that the lawsuit was barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity.[6]  The Court concluded: "The case is hereby dismissed because it is barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity and, as stated above, it presents a nonjusticiable claim, one which must be decided by the Connecticut legislature, and not by the court."[7]

Not Dead Yet’s running commentary on the case can be viewed here.  The verified complaint, the parties’ briefing and the Court’s decision can be viewed below as indicated:
Verified Complaint, filed October 2009.
Memorandum of Decision on Motion to Dismiss, dated June 1, 2010 and filed on June 2, 2010 (dismissing the case).


[1]  The term, "aid in dying" means both euthanasia and assisted suicide.  See the "Model Aid-in-Dying Act" published in the Iowa Law Review at: http://www.uiowa.edu/~sfklaw/euthan.html.  Note the letters "euthan" in the link.  The Act's definition of "aid-in-dying" describes euthanasia.  Section 1-102(3) states: "‘Aid-in-dying’ means . . . the administration of a qualified drug for the purpose of inducing death." See also video transcript of Barbara Wagner,
http://www.katu.com/news/26119539.html?video=YHI&t=a (last visited Sept. 24, 2010) ("‘physician aid in dying’ [is] better known as assisted suicide").
[2] Blick & Levine v. Office of the Division of Criminal Justice, et. al. (Blick v. Connecticut)(Conn. Super. Ct), CV-09-5033392, Memorandum of Decision on Motion to Dismiss, filed June 2, 2010, at 25
[3] Id., Memorandum of Decision on Motion to Dismiss, at 16, middle paragraph.  
[4] Id., at bottom.
[5] Id.at 17.
[6] Id.at 21-25
[7] Id.at 26.