[OPINION] “Aid in Dying” Bill Affects Us All

Deb Howland-Murray read the recent “06880” story about Lynda Bluestein — the local woman who will be the first non-resident to take advantage of Vermont’s law that allows people with terminal illnesses to end their own lives — with interest.

Deb is a longtime Westporter (and current Black Rock resident) who has a personal interest in the issue. She writes:

For all of us who read the moving post about Lynda Bluestein, there’s much more to her story — and the stories of many other folks in her situation.

My husband was one of them. He died a painful death in an institution, rather than peacefully in his beloved home on Cross Highway as he had wished. He died waiting for Connecticut to offer the same option Ms. Bluestein will take advantage of in Vermont at the end of her life.

Deb Howland-Murray drew this portrait of herself and her husband Dave from a photo, about a month into his illness.

A Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westport member, Lynda, who is terminally ill, has received special dispensation to avail herself of Vermont’s Aid in Dying law.

Connecticut has not yet added ourselves to the 11 jurisdictions that have passed Aid in Dying legislation, but that may soon change.

As someone who grew up in Westport since the age of 15 months and lived there most of my life, I think it’s important that Westporters know about our state’s Senate Bill 1076: An Act Concerning Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill (SB 1076).

Two weeks ago, SB 1076 was successfully moved forward, from the Legislature’s Public Health Committee to the Judiciary Committee. Over the course of the 15 years that Aid in Dying has been proposed in Connecticut, the bill has been honed to address concerns posed by our legislators.

According to a 2021 GQR poll Aid in Dying is now supported by 77% of CT voters across demographics of race, ability, age, gender, religion, educational attainment and political affiliation.

Westport’s State Representative Jonathan Steinberg and Senator Cece Maher belong to that 77%. I do too.

Lynda Bluestein and her husband Paul. She will be the first out-of-state resident to take advantage of Vermont’s Aid in Dying law. (Photo courtesy of NBC Connecticut)

My aim here is not to convince, but to ensure that Westporters know the basic facts of a bill that ultimately affects every Westporter.

No one is ever required to choose Aid in Dying. But if it is an individual’s choice to obtain relief under SB 1076, these requirements must be met:

  • Be a Connecticut resident of at least 1, year aged 21 or older
  • Be terminally ill, with a prognosis of 6 months or less to live
  • Be mentally capable, and making an informed healthcare decision
  • 2 written requests are required, with a 15-day waiting period between the first and second. Two people must witness each written request.
  • Prescribing physicians must comply with medical record documentation requirements, and make records available to the state Department of Jealth.

Key provisions include:

  • The individual must be able to self-administer the medication.
  • Two physicians must confirm that the person is terminally ill with a prognosis of 6 months or less to live, mentally capable and not being coerced.
  • A terminally ill person can withdraw their request for medication, not take the medication once they have it, or otherwise change their mind at any point.
  • The attending physician must inform the requesting individual about all end-of-life care options, including hospice and palliative care.
  • Medication cannot be prescribed until mental capacity to make a healthcare decision is confirmed by a licensed mental health specialist.
  • Physicians who participate and comply with all aspects of the law are given civil and criminal immunity.
  • Life insurance payments cannot be denied to the families of those who use the law.
  • No physician, health provider or pharmacist is required to participate.
  • Unused medication must be disposed of according to specified state and federal guidelines.

Knowledge is power. The Judiciary Committee will vote on SB 1076 soon, the outcome of which will determine whether or not it reaches the General Assembly.

I urge you to think about this bill. Whatever you feel about it, let Westport’s legislators hear from you.

19 responses to “[OPINION] “Aid in Dying” Bill Affects Us All

  1. Charles Rosoff

    Very sadly, medical advances enable the prolong of death instead of the prolonging of life. This bill enables us to begin the process of taking back control and make decisions for ourselves.

  2. this is the first time I’ve actually read the legislation. It looks very well crafted.

  3. India van voorhees

    Thanks for this excellent explanation which clearly shows the bill protects the terminally ill from making an uninformed or rash decision, or from being coerced.
    With these safeguards, I can’t imagine why it would have difficulty passing. I, for one, could never take my own life because it goes against my faith. But that doesn’t mean no one else should have that right. I hope all our lawmakers understand that.

  4. This bill deserves everyone’s support. I know of many instances in our own community and among friends – including my wife’s and my own experience with the death of a child in distress – where the relief afforded by this bill would have eased suffering. There is no rational reason for denying that option to those who choose to avail themselves of it.
    Representative Steinberg is to be applauded for championing this bill for many years. Now is the time for all of us to let the rest of the legislature know that CT should join the growing number of states which have already adopted similar legislation.

  5. Joseph Vallone

    I support this bill. Its time has come.

  6. Lynda Shannon Bluestein

    I was very happy to read Deb Howland-Murray-Murray’s comments today about my lawsuit to gain access to Vermont’s Act 39 in case Connecticut’s Legislature, once again, will not be allowed to vote on SB 1976, this year’s version of aid-in-dying bill. For the past two years CT came very close. In 2021 and 2022 Aid-in-Dying bills passed the Public Heath Committee but were blocked in the Judiciary Committee. This will happen again unless CT voters who support aid-in-dying legislation contact members of the Judiciary Committee. Soon. As in now. A quick call to to the offices of Judiciary Committee members leaving a message “I support Aid-in-Dying SB 1076” is all you need to say since the numbers of calls are recorded. Please, for all of us. Maybe even you. (860) 240‑0530 https://www.cga.ct.gov/jud/

  7. As a friend of Lynda’s, I want to urge everyone to contact their legislators in support of Aid in Dying. Show that we have advanced enough as a society to be merciful to those who are near the end of life.

  8. Bill Strittmatter

    This bill is a useful first step. However, in my view, it doesn’t go far enough. For example, I have Alzheimer’s in my genetic history. At some point, there is a reasonable chance that I will receive that diagnosis. That disease is something I would affirmatively choose today to not subject myself or my family or loved ones to. Nor non-Alzheimer’s related dementia.

    Much like a DNR or advance health directive, I would sign up today, when I am mentally capable, to be mercifully “put to sleep” after I am no longer mentally capable to make that decision and when certain objective criteria are met. Obviously, I would need medical help at the time to do so. This bill does not allow for either, leaving people like me to suffer a long, drawn out, undignified life and ultimate death.

    At some level, this legislation sets a bad precedent for ever passing legislation that would provide for my circumstances with all the hoops to go through, boxes to check and timing issues. Separately, I wonder how equitable the law is – sure someone with resources can afford to get the multiple diagnoses, mental evaluations and drugs required, but that leaves out large swathes of the population.

    To be quite honest, I don’t know why government has any legitimate interest in putting any limits on when or how individuals choose to die – my body, my choice.

  9. Please withhold

    Watching my 20-year-old daughter struggle was the ultimate agony. I don’t share these memories often. But this needs to happen. When a body has ceased to function and your child is no longer eating, is nauseated, is drugged into a state which may be either comforting or terrifying, can’t breathe, begs for help, and all you can do is increase a dose of morphine which isn’t yet enough to end the nightmare, it’s too late for a humane and logical end-of-life plan.

  10. Fran Sheff-Mauer

    This bill is profoundly important legislation. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

  11. After heart surgery my MD gave me an Rx for Nitroglycerin to take in case of sudden heart pain.
    “It’s a strong muscle relaxant so sit down before you take it because you might fall down. And NEVER take it with Viagra‼️ The combination is deadly. The medical profession discovered this when older men took Viagra first, had sex with a young lover, got heart pain, popped a few Nitro and died.”

  12. The oldest Baby Boomer is now 77, and the peak year boomers, born in 1957, are now 66. I fully expect this kind of legislation to proliferate as all 76 million boomers head into their final years. And I support it!

  13. I called the Judiciary Cmte number Lynda gave above and it hasn’t reached them yet, so they can’t take our testimony. Hopefully we’ll find out when it does!

  14. I just called Judiciary Committee, only to find the bill hadn’t been referred to them yet.

    Also want to agree with Mr. Strittmayer. I have a strong genetic history of vascular dementia, and my greatest fear is to languish in a home as my mother has for over a decade.

    This bill would be a good start, but doesn’t go far enough, even in the case of terminal illness. Two requests, weeks apart? Mental health assessment? Six months to live? Anyone who’s been through watching a loved one die will tell you all that hoop-jumping is unnecessarily stressful and punitive, even cruel.

  15. (Apologies for getting your name wrong, Mr. Strittmatter.)

  16. For those of you reaching out to the Judiciary Committee, you can go to the link Lynda provided https://www.cga.ct.gov/jud/, and click on Committee Members, and you will see emails for them. Although it hasn’t reached the committee yet, it soon will.

  17. Dermot Meuchner

    And important bill whose time has come.

  18. I want to echo what Bill said, my mom has dementia and daily I am reminded that although she had very strong end of life choices (attended many end of life meetings) and shared them with us often, she made no provision to help her in this dementia state. This was her worst nightmare. I say often that if her sound mind and body could stand next to her current self she would take her own life. I feel also daily that I am letting her down, but she really was in denial about her decline and made no preparations. We need a plan for Dementia too, an advanced directive to allow families to help a loved one with dementia.

  19. I agree Janine. My mom died of Alzheimer’s, and I felt the same way. One step at a time.

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