Lawmakers set aside assisted suicide bill, for now
Hartford - A high-profile bill to allow physicians to help dying patients end their own lives was set aside Friday to preserve other proposals that lawmakers considered too vital to risk.
Legislators also had concerns about whether the bill, which will be reintroduced during the 2014 session, had enough safeguards to ensure patients' end-of-life decisions would not be made imprudently.
Sen. Jason Welch, R-Bristol, said he supported changes that would have required multiple medical opinions and several waiting periods. But ultimately he opposed the bill, he said, out of concern that protections for the chronically ill were too few and too weak.
"You're kind of in and out of depressed states as you are dealing with disability and illness," he said. "That needs to be addressed, and the bill does not address that."
The bill would have made Connecticut the fourth state in the country, after Oregon, Washington and Montana, to allow assisted suicide.
"I do think it's a discussion absolutely worth having," said Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, one of the bill's proponents.
The Rev. Douglas Peary, president of the Unitarian Universalist Society in Meriden, said, "We are here for the dying," he said. "We're not trying to kill people. We want people just to have the choice to stop their pain when they're dying."
Peary said the key to winning support was more education, and compared the issue to the civil rights and gay rights movements.
"Seeing how long those battles took and this is just the same kind of thing," he said. "It takes years and years."
Welsh also objected, he said, because "it's bad public policy" for the state to sanction suicide under any circumstances. He suggested it would lead to higher suicide rates in general.
"For me, that's a deal-breaker," he said.
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