The issue of assisted suicide is worthy of debate in the General Assembly this year, but legislators should reject proposed legislation as it’s currently written.
A bill modeled after laws in Oregon and Washington state would allow “terminally ill, mentally competent” people to obtain a prescription for a “lethal dose of medication” to end their lives.
In theory, under the Connecticut law, the patient’s ability to make sound decisions would be judged by his or her doctor, who would have discretion to decide whether a psychological exam was necessary.
Even if the law were to require a second doctor to sign off, this is life and death and there’s no taking it back.
The diagnosis of terminal illness itself has been made in error before. The process should build in second opinions and more regarding the physical and mental condition of the patient.
Where one draws that line is a tricky proposition that deserves careful, deliberate study by the General Assembly. A good place to start is in seeking the counsel of hospice caregivers and mental health practitioners.
Unintended consequences should also be scrutinized. For example, a group pushing for nationwide passage of assisted suicide legislation estimates that only one-tenth of patients who obtain a lethal prescription under Oregon’s assisted suicide law end up taking their lives. What happens to those unused prescriptions?
There ought to be some way for terminally ill patients in constant pain and suffering to die with dignity. But the state of Connecticut must go to great lengths in enacting safeguards before sanctioning it.