Action Alert: Support the Compassionate Care Act

Action Alert: Support the Compassionate Care Act

On April 8, Democratic Representatives Edith H. Ajello, David A. Bennett, Christopher R. Blazejewski, J. Aaron Regunberg, and Teresa Ann Tanzi introduced H 5507  (“Lila Mansfield Sapinsly Compassionate Care Act”) in the Rhode Island General Assembly. This bill would allow terminally ill and medically competent adults to request and receive prescription medication to hasten a compassionate and dignified end to their suffering. The House Committee on Health, Education, and Welfare is holding the bill for further study. The Senate companion bill (S 589), sponsored by Gayle L. Goldin, Christopher S. Ottiano, Joshua Miller, Erin P. Lynch, and Paul V. Jabour, is scheduled for a hearing by the judiciary committee on Thursday, May 28.

Marisa Lindsey of Compassion & Choices hosted a meeting at the Unitarian meeting house in Manchester on May 21 to discuss lessons learned from this year’s campaign and to discuss strategy.  Among the points made at this meeting were that nearly 2/3 of Connecticut residents support aid in dying (per a Quinnipiac poll), but it has nevertheless failed to gain traction. Furthermore, unlike some other states, the only way to create a law in Connecticut is via the CGA; referendums and judicial rulings are not options.

It’s not been easy to get to this stage in the legislative process. In 2013 and 2014, the Public Health Committee was responsible for the aid in dying bill, but during those years, the bill didn’t get passed through the committee. In 2015, the Judiciary Committee owned the aid in dying bill, but again it failed to be brought to the floor by the committee. It appeared that some key members of the Judiciary Committee were fundamentally opposed to the concept of aid in dying as during the day of oral testimony, some observers felt that more time and attention was given to the testimony of opposition witnesses. During the hearing, the invited testifiers and those with credentials (such as former legislators and doctors) were predominantly opposed to this legislation.  They were questioned at length, not with difficult or probing questions, but with questions that let them keep talking.

For the 2016 CGA legislative session we can’t be sure which committee will have responsibility for the aid in dying bill, but it is almost certain that it will again be either the Judiciary Committee or the Public Health Committee. If it emerges successfully from whichever committee gets it, it may also require review by the other committee.

If you support legislation regarding death with dignity, the CoR Coordinators for Rhode Island CoR and Connecticut CoR would ask you to help by dedicating some of your time to track committee member votes and to report them in action alerts. You can also help by rallying the constituents of committee members to call and write letters as well as to write Letters to the Editor in all local papers. These are simple, but practical steps to help create governmental policy change—not just in Rhode Island and Connecticut—but in any local community in the United States.