Blick v. Connecticut

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.