Sen. Gary Winfield

This year’s aid-in-dying bill was voted down Monday by the Senate half of the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee, which divided itself in an unusual legislative maneuver before putting the policy to an unsuccessful vote.

Senators on the legal panel rejected the bill, which would have allowed terminally ill patients in Connecticut to end their lives through medication, on a 4 to 5 vote. 

The vote followed a rare motion to split the joint committee, made by the ranking House Republican Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, and a quick but emotional debate among the panel’s remaining senators. 

With uncharacteristic brevity, Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, called the bill a “horrible, horrible public policy.” 

“I believe in miracles,” Kissel said. “Everything can look like it’s never going to work out and then, the next day, something incredible happens… I don’t want to afford my loved ones, my neighbors, my constituents the blessing on taking their own life.”

Sen. Gary Winfield, a New Haven Democrat who is co-chair of the committee, disagreed and cited the painful death of his mother almost a decade earlier. 

“Senator Kissel said that he believes in miracles — I wish there were miracles,” Winfield said, struggling for composure, “but on July 31 of this year it will be 10 years since my mother passed.”

Winfield described his mother as loving her life and a woman of deep faith. 

“She fought for life and yet at the end she begged to die,” Winfield said. “I wasn’t always someone who would be a proponent of this bill. There was a point at which I would have opposed this bill but it is true: that even if you’ve experienced death before, one horrible death can change all of that.”

Shortly afterwards, Winfield voted for the bill along with Democratic Sens. Saud Anwar of South Windsor, Will Haskell of Westport, and Matt Lesser of Middletown. Republican Sens. Kissle, Dan Champagne of Vernon, Paul Cicarella of North Haven, and Rob Sampson of Southington voted against it along with Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Willimantic. 

Because the bill failed to clear the Senate portion of the committee, the remaining House panel tabled the legislation without action. Monday’s vote represents an unusually definitive end for legislation. Typically, committee chairs do not raise bills for a vote if there is not adequate support to advance the policy.

In a statement following the meeting, Tim Appleton, senior campaign director of Compassion and Choices, thanked the committee’s leadership for bringing the bill to a vote and expressed disappointment at its outcome.

“It says a lot about support for medical aid in dying, both inside and outside the Capitol, that opponents had to resort to a rarely-used parliamentary maneuver to defeat the legislation,” Appleton said.  “While medical aid in dying has advanced further this year than ever before, today’s vote will mean immeasurable suffering for terminally ill people who shared their stories with lawmakers, and for whom another legislative session will come too late.”