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.
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.
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.