The following is a press release from the office of Betsy Ritter:
State Rep. Betsy Ritter (D-Waterford), joined by other legislators, clergy members, doctors and advocates, spoke out Tuesday in favor of right-to-die legislation that would allow terminally ill, mentally competent patients the option of choosing medical assistance to carry out their final wishes.
Ritter told a press conference in Hartford that she hopes the legislation, which has been taken up by the legislature’s Public Health Committee, would lead to a full discussion of the rights of individuals and subsequent passage of the bill.
“Patients should be able to make their own decisions about the final minutes of their lives. It’s their right and no one else’s,” Ritter said.
Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion & Choices, said aid-in-dying laws in Oregon, Washington and now Montana are working as intended and none of the problems opponents predicted have come true.
Doctors, patients, clergy and the majority of Connecticut residents support the right of patients to make end-of-life decisions without government interference, she said. Critics raise fears of abuse or coercion but evidence and experience do not support these fears. Connecticut’s residents should enjoy freedom both in how to live and, when their time comes, how to die, she said.
Many dying patients suffer, even with the best care and pain management. Others fear their pain will become unbearable. Supporters of Connecticut’s legislation say people should have a full range of end-of-life choices, including the right to request and obtain life-ending medication.
Experience, in states with explicit permission for aid in dying, show that very few patients actually request, and even fewer actually self-administer, medication – only 673 people in Oregon have done so in 15 years since the law’s passage. But thousands more take comfort just in knowing the option is available, according to Coombs Lee, who noted that end-of-life care has actually improved under the Oregon law.
The Connecticut bill would be based on Oregon and Washington state statutes, and would allow a terminally ill person with a diagnosis of less than six months to live, who is deemed mentally and psychologically competent, to get a prescription that can be self-administered for a humane and dignified death, supporters said.
The legislation would include protections to ensure that patients are not coerced or influenced in their decision-making.