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Life Or Death Legislation



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When it comes to letting go of life, Connecticut residents’ ability for physician assisted self-compassion in the face of certain death is not allowable by law.

How does one respond to death’s knock at the door? Not everyone agrees with poet Dylan Thomas that “Old age should burn and rave at close of day,” but rather believe that death should a peaceful passing; for them, it is good news that medically induced death at one’s discretion is on the horizon for Nutmeggers.

In early February, An Act Concerning Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Patients (H.B. 6425), was raised and referred to the Joint Committee on Public Health. Should this bill move forward and pass, Connecticut will join with Oregon, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Vermont, Washington state, and Washington, DC in granting citizens the right to determine the quality of their final days.

For those who are subjected to relentless pain of a terminal illness, who experience humiliation as bodily functions are no longer private, who undergo endless medical procedures never leading back to a semblance of a normal life; whose quality of life cannot be reconciled with what it once was; whose mental clarity is sufficient to determine that suffering is futile, a law that protects doctors and patients responding kindly to death’s call is needed. For those who long to leave this world while they can still appreciate its beauty and while those around them can still see the beauty in them, this legislation cannot come too soon.

If modeled on the Oregon Death With Dignity Act, qualified patients will be able to administer a lethal dose of a prescription medication, allowing them to pass on when they feel prepared to do so. In Oregon, a patient must be 18 years old or older; a state resident; capable of making and communicating health care decisions to practitioners; and having been diagnosed with a terminal illness expected to lead to death within six months. It is not a decision that can be made by caretakers or family members. It cannot be made by a person who is mentally unable to express their wishes, nor can a doctor make that decision for the patient.

In Oregon, since 1997, over 2,000 terminal cancer, neurological, and respiratory patients have received prescriptions to end their own lives, with 1,657 choosing to follow through. Would it not be comforting, when so much has been stripped away, to have power over one’s own life — or death?

Seventy-four percent of Americans in a May 2020 Gallup Poll believe that physician-assisted death with dignity should be legitimized. Medically assisted death is not for everyone. But for those for whom it is, having that legal option can bring a measure of peace.

We can rage at death, but that rage would be better directed at laws that make choice illegal. A decision to move away from this earthly place is a decision not to be hindered by heartless laws, but by decisions of the heart.

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