Of all the comments I have received when running for office or while working here in Hartford, the issue of medical aid in dying has been the most common. People on both sides of the issue are passionate and sincere in their beliefs and their concerns.
I practiced as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthesiologist for 39 years and during that time became all too familiar with people who are dying and are looking for ways to manage their anxiety and their pain or discomfort. Although healthcare can moderate or manage some of the issues concerning the process of dying, many times those who are dying are in unbearable pain or distress.
Hospice for many is a way for people who are dying to manage their care and concerns. Everyone should know that while hospice is a great organization it is not distributed equally across the country or the state. The untold story in hospice care is how medications are given in increasingly larger doses to keep someone as comfortable as possible and the side effects of these drugs usually cause the patient to decrease their ability to breath or maintain their cardiovascular system even more than what the disease that is killing them. It is not euthanasia but a great kindness to let people die peacefully and not struggle to breath or cry out in pain. That is a cruelty no one should bear.
The request to end your life should never be taken lightly and I believe the safeguards for people to abuse the process are in place. I have talked with doctors in other states as to how the process is managed and learned that it is almost always done with hospice care involved until the person dying decides they do not want to live. They must consume the medications themselves and no one can give it to them. Can this be abused? Of course, but so can the medications that families have been given to help hospice patients manage their pain.
As a health care provider, I support people seeking care to live as long as they choose. I would never deny care to people even if I thought it would not prolong their life but for a short time. The medical system we have in our country supports providing care this way also. When it is time to die, I also support the compassion to help a patient be kept as pain free and comfortable as possible even if it means giving larger dosages of drugs that may hasten their death. That is hospice. The decision to make with this bill is: can a person give themselves the drugs to end their suffering instead of someone else?
Both of my parents died with hospice care and my father-in-law hospiced in my home when we converted a living room into a bedroom. I know how people die and I know how hospice works. They were a wonderful help when we needed them. But I also know that the drugs that kept them peaceful also shortened their lives at least a day or two but they would have been in horrible agony. I would never let that happen.
I appreciate your sharing your concerns and opinions regarding this HB 1076 and please know that I have heard you and everyone else who has talked or written to me about this bill and I appreciate everyone sharing your stories with me.
State Rep. Keith Denning (D-42) represents Wilton in the CT House of Representatives. He is a co-sponsor of SB1076, “An Act Concerning Aid In Dying for Terminally Ill Patients.“