Assisted suicide bills considered in six states

Six states are currently considering bills to legalize physician-assisted suicide in cases of terminally ill, mentally competent patients.  This measure has been widely debated in recent years, as a large number of baby boomers begin to face issues such as failing health and old age.  Groups like Compassion & Choices, an organization that works with people nearing the end of their lives, have been working hard to promote this legislation, and lately appear to be gaining some ground.  States where these bills are being considered include Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Kansas and Hawaii.

Should these bills be passed, they would require that a doctor first administer a psychological exam to ensure the patient is able to make a sound decision on his own.  If the patient passes and decides to go through with it, the doctor would then prescribe a “lethal dose of medication” to end the life of the patient.

In Connecticut, lawmakers announced that a public hearing would be held sometime within the coming weeks to discuss the bill.  If the General Assembly votes yes on the bill, they will become the first state legislature to do so.  While assisted suicide is legal in both Washington and Oregon, in these cases it was decided through voter referendums instead.

Opponents of the bill within Connecticut claim the push comes mainly from out-of-state groups like Compassion & Choices.  “There’s no grass-roots cry for assisted suicide in the state of Connecticut,” said Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute. “This is mostly an out-of-state organization that has targeted the state of Connecticut. They look at the Northeast and think this is low-hanging fruit: `We can conduct our social experiments here in the Northeastern United States.’”

Although a ballot to legalize assisted suicide was voted against last year in Massachusetts, advocates claim it started a national discussion that may give their cause more strength in the near future.