State lawmakers are, once again, considering a bill that would allow certain terminally ill patients to choose physician-assisted death. More than 100 people signed up to testify at a public hearing Monday.
The bill would allow mentally competent, terminally ill patients who are 21 and older and who have six months to live the right to receive medical aid in dying. In the last three decades, state lawmakers have considered more than a dozen aid-in-dying bills. After failed attempts, lawmakers said that the bill being considered this session has stronger safeguards including an increase in the age eligibility and a one-year residency requirement, among others.
“Some will say that these guardrails have become barriers and others will say that the law does not go far enough to protect the vulnerable," said State Senator Saud Anwar (South Windsor), who chairs the public health committee.
Advocates of the bill shared personal stories of their loved ones who died waiting for the option to receive medical aid in dying.
Get Connecticut local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Connecticut newsletters.
“I want to speak out. I have no choice," said Jill Hammerberg, of Farmington.
Hammerberg's husband, Mark, died after a battle with terminal cancer. She said that he was in excruciating pain on his last day.
“It was long and arduous, and I don’t want anyone else to pass this way," said Hammerberg.
Kira Philips also testified in support of the bill. She lost her mother almost two years ago. Without the option to receive medical aid in dying, Philips said that her mom made the decision to violently end her own life.
"My dad had to find her and it destroyed our family," said Philips. "Part of my healing process is to speak up about this matter and fight for what my mom wished she could have used.”
In addition to those pushing for the bill's passage, people shared their passionate opposition.
"All of the safeguards they talk about do nothing to prevent mistaken deaths from misdiagnosis, mis prognosis, wrong estimation of life expectancy, coercion or abuse," said Cathy Ludlum.
Ludlum is with Second Thoughts Connecticut, a group of disabled people and allies. She has spent the last decade speaking against the effort.
“Because I don’t want this thrust upon unsuspecting people," said Ludlum.
Ludlum and other opponents of the bill said the state should focus on improving hospice care in the state.
If passed, Connecticut would join 10 other states and Washington D.C. in allowing physician-assisted death.