The End of Life
4:13 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

Public Testifies on "Aid in Dying" Bill

Credit photonewman/iStock / Thinkstock

A legislative hearing was held Monday on a bill that would allow doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs to the terminally ill.  The session brought emotional testimony from those both in favor and opposed. 

Judith Passmore remembers the day her father, dying of cancer, asked her to help.

"He begged me to untie his hands so he that could remove the tubes through which he received water, liquid food and medication," she told legislators. "He had been caught trying to do that previously and staff had fastened his hands to ping-pong paddles and tied them to the side of the bed."

In the end, Passmore didn't help her father die -- her mother threatened to have her arrested if she did. Her father then died three weeks later, and Passmore said she's spent the past 40 years feeling sad and ashamed that she couldn't help him as he wished.

"We put down suffering or disabled dogs, horses or other animals to put them out of their misery," she said. "I feel that I'm worthy of the same mercy."

Passmore came to speak to the legislature in support of what's called an "aid in dying" or an "assisted suicide" bill, depending on your perspective. Republican State Senator Michael McLachlan came in firm opposition.

"I strongly believe that this legislation would promote a culture of assisted suicide in Connecticut and unfortunately tells our citizens that suicide is an acceptable solution to life's hardships," he said, adding that he once discovered someone close to him who had committed suicide.

"Under all circumstances, suicide is a tragedy," he said. "Time and time again, I hear wonderful stories of healing. Patients with unbearable illnesses with long odds for survival. Now they're happily enjoying life, and very grateful to their healthcare providers, family, and friends, and their faith, for bringing them through the darkness to light."

A recent poll shows that state residents strongly support this type of bill. But Governor Dannel Malloy said last week that any assisted suicide bill will likely face a lot of opposition. It's unclear whether anything will make it out of legislative committee.