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Suicide? Terminally ill patients shouldn't need an OK

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Why are lawmakers always meddling in the private affairs of private citizens?

Who knew that a knock on the door to get your vote would give ordinary men and women the power to keep you or your loved ones locked in pain and misery for years while they debate whether a person should have the right to have someone help them end their own lives?

These lawmakers are not sitting at someone’s hospital bedside holding their hand while they lay in misery. I would doubt they even know these people so why are they involved?

Sometimes the way we do things in this country is a complete mystery to me.

We put down animals to keep them from suffering and yet we debate whether humans in the same condition should suffer?

The act of suicide, though disturbing and painful for those left behind, it is not illegal. But assisting someone to do so is.

That is why the issue is back before the General Assembly in yet another incarnation — this time as “HB 5898, An Act Concerning Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill.”

The measure received hearings under different bills in 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018 but never made it out of committee, according to a report in CTMirror.

The new bill, introduced by Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, is before the Joint Committee on Public Health. It has growing support including the Massachusetts Medical Society, which recently dropped its opposition.

It is a hot-button issue with legitimate arguments on both sides of the table, but to me it comes down to a matter of choice.

That is why I wonder, what makes our legislators think they have the right to determine what a person does with his or her own life?

I really hate politicians wading into my personal life and making decisions they should have no part of.

I would much more prefer they spend their time coming up with ideas to produce more revenue other than what’s in their constituents’ wallets than worry about how people choose to leave this Earth.

And I am not the only one.

Judy Centurelli wants to be able to die with dignity.

The then-74-year-old Connecticut resident told legislators last year she does not want what is currently offered in this state should she become terminally ill.

“What worries me most about dying is not having any control over how and when it will occur should I become too ill or incapacitated to have any hope of once again living a life that I would consider worth living,” said her written testimony before the Connecticut legislature. “I want death with dignity not tubes and artificial means of keeping me alive. I want choice in how I end my days. … I have chosen how I want to live my life and I want to choose how I will end it.”

I think many of us feel the same way. I certainly don’t want to lie in a hospital bed suffering in agonizing pain but helpless because some politician I don’t know says I must.

As outlined in the bill, a patient wanting to end his or her life undergoes a psychiatric evaluation, submits two written requests at least two weeks apart and, once they have been determined mentally sound and capable of making their own decision to die independently, a physician prescribes the medication the patient personally must ingest to bring about their death.

I don’t see anything wrong with that.

Neither do 61 percent of Connecticut residents, according to a 2018 Quinnipiac University poll, which found Republicans favored assisted suicide 51 percent to 42 percent, Democrats supported it 66-28 and Independents 63-31.

It also is legal in Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Montana, Colorado, Hawaii and Washington, D.C., and 21 other states are considering some form of it.

But apparently, it has been a huge leap for lawmakers in Connecticut.

Sara Myers and other Connecticut residents did not have the choice and the end of their lives was very painful, according to Tim Appleton, U.S. field director of Compassion and Choices, a nonprofit that supports assisted suicide initiatives on a national level.

The conversation started with Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who made national headlines by helping people suffering from debilitating conditions end their lives. He was convicted in 1999 and spent eight years behind bars for assisting terminally ill patients with suicide. But the conversation rages on.

This isn’t exactly a feelgood Sunday morning conversation but it is one I think affects all people.

I simply don’t want any lawmaker telling me I have to live in pain and suffer because they say so. They are supposed to add options to people’s lives, not take them away.

Before her death, Myers remarked, “Knowing that you’re going to die in a horrible, painful way is a very scary thought.”

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her. But it did not have to be that way for Myers and many others.

No matter how people feel on the subject, it will eventually become the law because it has the support of 18- to 29-years-olds by a wide margin, 63-28, according to the QU poll.

The only question in my mind is why do we need a law to give terminally ill people the right to end their lives?

That is just too much government.

Suicide? Terminally ill patients shouldn’t need an OK.

Editor’s note: This column has been updated to reflect it is the Massachusetts Medical Society, not the Connecticut Medical Society, that has stopped opposing aid-in-dying.

James Walker is the New Haven Register’s senior editor and a statewide columnist for Hearst Connecticut newspapers.