Connecticut Assisted Suicide Bill Finally Gets Hearing

Connecticut Assisted Suicide Bill Finally Gets Hearing

Posted on Monday, April 1st, 2013 at 11:05 am by Life Matters Media


Wikimedia Commons

For the first time in Connecticut’s history, the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee allowed a legislative hearing about a physician-assisted suicide bill.

H.B. 6645 aims to allow physicians the ability to prescribe life-ending medications at the request of mentally competent, terminally ill patients. Patients would have to self-administer the drug.

Connecticut’s CBS affiliate reports that because Democratic State Sen. Ed Meyer of Guilford received so many phone calls supporting “Death with Dignity,” he chose to author the bill, which he insists is both compassionate and cautious.

“The bill that we’re hearing today, for example, requires two different physicians to certify under oath that the person is terminally ill, likely to die within six months and is mentally competent to make an informed decision about ending his or her life,” Meyer told WCBS 880.

Washington, Oregon and Montana have already approved the legislation known as “Death with Dignity.”

“If the legislators see the bill as providing a choice, an intelligent choice for people making an informed decision to end their life and end the misery and pain they’re going through at the end of life, I think the bill will go forward,” Meyer said.

However, the bill faces strong opposition from religious and social organizations, such as the Family Institute of Connecticut and Second Thoughts Connecticut. Such opposition could hold-up the bill’s passage.

“We will be killing our vulnerable parents and grandparents through public policy,” said Teresa Wells, a nursing home administrator, according to the Hartford Courant.

The Catholic Church has also been a vocal critic. The Church cites the lack of wait time between the necessary oral and written requests for drugs. Other states require a 15 day wait.

Meyer said he remains open to suggestions.

Proponents of the bill argue it would ensure individual freedoms at the end of life. “The deep yearning for increasing autonomy for patients themselves to have a voice, I think now it’s reaching a tipping point all across the world,” Compassion and Choices’ Barbara Coombs Lee told CBS. “I think the Baby Boomer generation has something to do with that.”

A similar bill was proposed in 2009, but it failed to garner a hearing. Connecticut has banned assisted suicide since the late 1960s.

Read the bill at Connecticut’s General Assembly Web site

Feeding Tubes: Families Struggle With Decision

Posted on Saturday, November 24th, 2012 at 3:12 pm by Life Matters Media

Brown University, Joan Teno

Many families caring for seniors with advanced neurological disease face this dilemma: prolong their loved one’s life by artificial means via a feeding tube or stop feeding them altogether. Lisa Krieger’s new feature for Mercury News focuses on the billion-dollar feeding tube business and why some families regret their decision to opt for artificial nutrition.

One-third of nursing home residents suffering from dementia receive tube feedings, contributing to the $1.64 billion industry. However, some families and physicians insist the value of feeding tubes is overrated, since they provide little medical benefit and increase pain for those suffering from progressive neurological disease.


“The number of nursing home residents with advanced dementia who get feeding tubes each year varies widely across states,” Krieger reports. The only comprehensive study on the matter found the average rate of use nationwide was 54 per 1,000 people.

Racial minorities are also more likely to opt for artificial tubes than whites. Life Matters Media previously reported that blacks are twice as likely than others to choose aggressive end of life treatments.

As medical costs continue to rise and the baby boomer population ages, views on artificial nutrition may be changing. “Decades after the tube achieved widespread use for people with irreversible dementia, some families are beginning to say no to them, as emerging research shows that artificial feeding prolongs, complicates and isolates dying,” Krieger writes.

For example, a 1999 study by Dr. Thomas Finucane of Johns Hopkins Medical Center found no evidence that feeding tubes prolong the lives of demented nursing home patients. They also didn’t prevent pneumonia or improve comfort.

Finucane’s analysis asserts: “We found no data to suggest that tube feeding improves any of these clinically important outcomes and some data to suggest that it does not… risks are substantial. The widespread practice of tube feeding should be carefully reconsidered…”

Most families, however, are accustomed to caring for their sick by feeding them, a reason why the decision to opt for or against artificial nutrition is especially emotional. “Food is how we comfort those we love; when all other forms of communication have vanished, feeding remains a final act of devotion,” Krieger writes.

Sometimes a terminally ill individual may not feel pain when a feeding tube is first inserted in the stomach. As the illness progresses and pain begins to get more intense, removing the tube becomes a moral debate. This quandary often comes as another surprise for families.

“It is amazing how long you can keep someone alive,” said Dr. Leslie Foote, medical director of Windsor Gardens Rehabilitation Center in California. “But we sure aren’t doing them any great favors.”

Despite some change in public opinion, families may not have the choice to reject feeding tubes. The fallout from the controversial 2005 Terri Schiavo case led the Catholic Church to order doctors at its hospitals to ignore patients’ advanced directives- even if they do not want artificial feeding. Catholic hospitals may mandate artificial nourishment.

In 2009, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the directive to more than 1,000 Catholic hospitals and nursing homes, as well as to all Catholic doctors.

“People with end stage dementia still possess human dignity. And that dignity must be respected,” said Vice- President of Corporate Ethics at Catholic Daughters of Charity Health System Gerald Coleman. Krieger insists that tube feeding constitutes ordinary care at Catholic hospitals.

Mass. Catholics Organize Against ‘Death With Dignity’

Posted on Sunday, September 30th, 2012 at 3:17 pm by Life Matters Media

Roman Catholics remain some of the most vocal opponents to the “Death with Dignity” initiative in Massachusetts, to which voters statewide will answer yes or no Nov. 6. The proposed action would allow physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients.

“The largest religious force in Massachusetts, the Roman Catholic Church, has come out squarely against the referendum, as have other prominent faith voices,” The Boston Globe’s Lisa Wangness writes. “The church teaches that human life is sacred from conception to natural death, and that suicide in any form is a grave sin.”

Mass. Sec. of State

The Globe’s Chelsea Conaboy also reports that, “Catholic archdioceses from across the country contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide, which raised $900,550 from late April to September.”

According to New England’s NBC affiliate NECN, Catholics are organizing church by church against “Death with Dignity.” For example, St. Jerome Parish in Weymouth, Mass. is holding workshops encouraging parishioners to vote “no” on the initiative, also known as Question 2.

The initiative referred to as “Prescribing Medication to End Life” has a number of restrictions. “Patients would have to be determined capable of making and communicating their health care decisions, have at most six months to live and voluntarily express a wish to die on two occasions, 15 days apart,” reports the Concord Journal. A patient and his or her physician would also be required to discuss the option of palliative care.

In a blog post for Boston, Dr. Marcia Angell, a supporter of the proposal, writes: “No physician is required to participate in assisted dying; he or she may refuse for any reason whatsoever. This is a choice, not a requirement, for both patients and physicians.” Dr. Angell is the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The Massachusetts Medical Society and the Massachusetts Family Institute also oppose the act. The former president of the Society, Dr. Barbara Rockett, writes in a foil post: “We as physicians must avoid the so-called slippery slope of attempting to save money by doing less for our patients rather than rendering the proper care to them. To substitute physician-assisted suicide for care represents an abandonment of the patient by the physician.”

States currently allowing assisted suicide include: Oregon, Montana and Washington.

A 2012 study by the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine analyzed Oregon’s 1994 adoption of “Death with Dignity” and its Catholic response. According to the study, “The Church used its pulpits to urge Catholics to vote against Measure 16 (the Act) and make a political contribution to the Coalition for Compassionate Care,” similar to the current Massachusetts response.

However, one of the biggest differences between Oregon and Massachusetts is the Catholic population. “[S]ince Oregon had only a small percentage of Catholics in the state, most Oregon voters saw the Catholic Church’s involvement against Measure 16 as an attempt by organized religion to impose its views on the public,” Taylor E. Purvis writes.

According to Pew Research, 43 percent of Massachusetts residents claim the Catholic tradition as their religious preference. Massachusetts has a larger percentage of Catholics than any other state.

The high percentage of Catholics is not, however, translating into statewide opposition to Question 2. A new Suffolk University poll of likely voters shows 64 percent would vote “yes” and only 27 percent would vote “no” on the initiative.

Read the full petition here