Concerned that a bill allowing terminally-ill people to request medication to end their own lives will get raised next year by the General Assembly, the Family Institute of Connecticut is co-hosting a conference this weekend to build its opposition.
The East Coast Conference Against Assisted Suicide will take place 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Double Tree Hotel in Windsor Locks. As of Wednesday, about 100 people had registered to attend, according to Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut.
“This is the first time we tried this, and we want to give people the resources they need to fight this,” Wolfgang said. “We want to unite with people fighting this in other states.” A proposed right-to-die law in New Jersey, which Wolfgang testified against, recently passed in the state Assembly and is awaiting action in the Senate.
Legislation that would allow a doctor in Connecticut to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a terminally-ill patient failed to pass the Public Health Committee this year, but it’s likely to be raised again in the 2015 legislative session.
The fact that the bill did not make it out of committee is a sign that there is no grassroots support for assisted suicide in Connecticut, Wolfgang said. Also, Elizabeth Ritter, a Democratic state representative who was a supporter of the bill and ran for an open state senate seat in November, lost. Wolfgang said that’s another sign that the measure lacks public support.
“Initially, many people support the idea, then they learn more about it and oppose it,” he added.
Saturday’s conference will feature speakers who will discuss the negative impact of such measures in other states and parts of the world. “The right to die becomes the duty to die,” Wolfgang said explaining that it puts the terminally ill and people with disabilities at risk.
Among the scheduled speakers are Maggie Karner of Bristol, who has the same form of inoperable brain cancer as Brittany Maynard, a young woman who moved to Oregon, a state where mentally-competent, terminally-ill people have the right to end their own lives. Karner’s video on YouTube of her reading a letter urging Maynard ask her not to take her life was viewed by tens of thousands of people. Maynard, whose video also went viral on YoutTube, ended her life Nov. 1 by taking medication prescribed by a doctor months earlier.
Tim Appleton, Connecticut campaign manager for Compassion & Choices, a nonprofit organization committed to giving people choices at the end of their lives, said a Quinnipiac University poll showed Connecticut residents support the idea that terminally ill and mentally competent people should have the right to choose the manner of their death.
The poll conducted last March found that 61 percent of Connecticut voters support the measure and 32 percent are opposed.
Compassion & Choices, which advocated for the bill last year, hosted their own panel discussion on the issue in October.
Currently five U.S. states — Oregon, Washington, Montana, New Mexico, and Vermont — have have legalized aid-in-dying, according to Compassion & Choices. Oregon and Washington state passed it through ballot initiatives, while Montana and New Mexico legalized it through separate court cases. Vermont passed it through the legislative process.
Wolfgang is praying that Connecticut won’t be next and believes the conference will help the opposition to the legislation get organized.
Saturday’s conference will feature a number of speakers including Wesley J. Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism and Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
Participants can register for Saturday’s conference by signing up online here.
Other conference sponsors include the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, Second Thoughts Massachusetts, and Second Thoughts Connecticut.