Murder-Suicide Puts Spotlight on State Law, Lawsuit

The issue of assisted suicide is back in public debate after a couple who was married for 38 years died on Monday in what police are calling a murder-suicide.

Thomas and Joan Vanacore were a loving, friendly couple with a wide circle of relatives and friends who loved them, according to The New Haven Register.  On Monday, Thomas, 73, who suffered from late-stage lung and bone cancer shot his 70-year-old wife, Joan, who had Alzheimer’s disease, and then turned the gun on himself, police said. Investigators have ruled the shootings a murder-suicide.

Connecticut law prevents someone from assisting another person to commit suicide and two Fairfield County doctors, Dr. Gary Blick and Dr. Ronald Levine, are suing the state. They are looking on clarification for the law in hopes that doctors who prescribe medication to help a patient end his own life would not be charged with second-degree manslaughter.

The Register spoke with a health law professor at Quinnipiac University who said it would be interesting to see what affect the North Haven murder-suicide has on the public and on lawmakers.

State Rep. Michael Lawlor of East Haven told the newspaper that he's prefer a court ruling on the doctors’ lawsuit before the matter returns to the Capitol.

“I don’t think this is ripe for legislative discussion until there’s a way for the medical community and the patient community to come to some type of consensus on the right thing to do,” Lawlor told the Register. “It would be useful for the court to say whether it’s a crime. It would be very helpful for the court to figure out what does criminal law really say about physician-assisted suicide. Until then, it is way too emotional.”

You can read Blick v. Connecticut court papers here

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