End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Connecticut News

Well-Funded Lobbyists Drown Out Citizen Voices on Connecticut Death-with-Dignity Law

The deadline came and went last week for a committee in the Connecticut legislature to advance a death-with-dignity law – a bill that enjoyed two-to-one support in the Nutmeg State. The Joint Public Health Committee failed to vote out the Compassionate Aid In Dying For Terminally Ill Patients act, which means it cannot be taken up by the legislature until next year.

When the deadline passed, Tim Appleton, Campaign Director for Compassion & Choices Connecticut, said, “The legislature’s failure to act has consequences. It means more end-of-life suffering for thousands of terminally ill Connecticut residents, including those who have been denied the peace of mind that comes from knowing this choice is available.” It was obvious that powerful institutions and their money had effectively silenced the people, especially since nine or ten opposition lobbyists a day were seen around the Capitol in recent weeks.

Two recent opinion polls, including Quinnipiac University’s, showed that a strong majority of Connecticut voters supported aid-in-dying legislation.  Several major Connecticut newspaper editorial boards came out in support of it and papers across the state repeatedly covered the debate.  

Compassion & Choices campaign organizers mobilized citizens to call and visit their legislators and pursued an aggressive communications strategy with online, radio and newspaper ads that ran in lawmakers’ hometown papers. Legislators on the Committee also received thousands of petitions and – during a public hearing that made front-page news in six newspapers and was featured in multiple broadcast outlets – heard from scores of Connecticut citizens who personally testified about why they, or someone they loved, needed the law.

One person who heard that testimony was State Senator Gary Holder-Winfield, who sat on the Public Health Committee. He had won his Senate seat campaigning as a staunch supporter of the law and said, “I am disappointed that the discussion about aid in dying has come to an end.  This issue had strong voices on both sides and is an important public policy discussion I hope we can revisit in the future.”

Leaders in the legislature had had a photo gallery of citizen supporters abrubtly removed from the Capitol in February, after caving in to the same forces that dispatched all those lobbyists. One of the stars of that gallery was Sara Myers, whose courage in talking about the painful death she’ll face from ALS was reported in news outlets across the state. Sara also spoke at a February press conference and appeared in print and radio advertisements Compassion & Choices ran. Sara said she remains committed to helping educate her Connecticut neighbors about this issue, and added, “I am forever grateful to the excellent campaign run by Compassion & Choices and look forward to trying once again next year.”

One bill that did advance out of the Public Health Committee was legislation establishing a program for Medical Orders for Life-sustaining Treatment (M.O.L.S.T.). M.O.L.S.T. programs are known to help patients, their loved ones, advocates and physicians have candid conversations about all end-of-life options, including advance directives and death with dignity, so this is good news for Connecticut.

During a March press conference, MOLST legislation was something Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy indicated he could support, while saying he wanted to understand the death-with-dignity law better before forming an opinion. Shortly after the Committee deadline passed, Malloy announced his intention to run for re-election this November. The Compassion & Choices Connecticut team is determined to use this campaign season to educate Malloy and other candidates about death with dignity, including its solid record in other states, so that the legislation advances further next year, and the people get their say.


A Message From Connecticut

Hello friends,

As you may have heard we have been unable to move our bill from the Public Health Committee, but we will not go quietly and here is why we will continue this fight:  

We know inaction has consequences.  It means more end-of-life suffering for thousands of terminally ill Connecticut residents, including those who have been denied the peace of mind knowing this choice is available. Moreover, we have polling on our side, history on our side, but most importantly, we have you on our side, and you make passage of a permissive end-of-life choice bill in Connecticut inevitable.

You sent thousands of e-mails and made calls to key legislators on the Public Health Committee to beat back over 10 lobbying firms hired by the opposition. You forced the Public Health Committee to convene a public hearing and came in droves to the Capitol to make your voice heard.

We are so proud of you and all of our legislative champions in Hartford: Attorney General George Jespen, Comptroller Kevin Lembo, Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri, Deputy Speaker Betsy Ritter, Senator Gary Holder-Winfield, Senator Ed Meyer and Representative Phil Miller.

Please take a few seconds to send a quick e-mail to thank them by

We’ve done all of the work for you. Just CLICK HERE.

Marisa and I cannot thank you enough for all you did this year – the work isn’t done, the fight isn’t over, and we look forward to working with you in the weeks and months ahead to make sure that we can bring aid in dying to Connecticut.


Tim Appleton signature.jpg

Tim Appleton

Compassion & Choices – Connecticut Campaign Manager

It’s Crunch Time in Connecticut

In the days to come, our campaign to make Connecticut the next state to legalize aid in dying for the terminally ill enters a critical phase. Your help right now could make the pivotal difference, as the public hearing on HB 5326 has been set for March, 17th at 10:30AM.

We won’t sugarcoat it — in Connecticut and other key states, like New Jersey and Massachusetts, end-of-life choice is up against deep-pocketed special interests that are flooding the airwaves and internet with propaganda.

But this year, they’re finding it harder to get traction. That’s because, thanks to you, Compassion & Choices has a stronger, more sophisticated grassroots presence. We are the only group dedicated to end-of-life issues with professional organizers, dedicated media strategists and experienced lobbyists who work for us — natives with a history of service in the state. More

“How We Die” Author Praised for Spurring National Death-with-Dignity Discussion

Connecticut Physician Sherwin Nuland Criticized Futile Medical Treatments for Terminally Ill

(Hartford, Conn. – March 5, 2014) Compassion & Choices praised Dr. Sherwin Nuland, the Yale surgery professor and author of an award-winning book, “How We Die,” for initiating a national dialogue about death with dignity.  Nuland died from prostate cancer on Monday at age 83 at his home in Hamden, Connecticut.

“Dr. Nuland was heroic in bringing conversations about dying out of the closet. He openly acknowledged medically assisted dying exists in states like Connecticut where it is considered illegal. Our own fight is to legalize aid in dying and bring a surreptitious practice into the open, where it is safe and accessible to everyone,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, a former ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant who coauthored the nation’s first death-with-dignity law in Oregon.


Death With Dignity a Winning Campaign Issue in Connecticut

With all the issues voters consider, there is never just one reason a candidate wins an election.  But when someone campaigns – and wins – on end-of-life choice, it’s worth noting. That’s exactly what happened in a special election for the Connecticut State Senate this week. Gary Holder-Winfield, already a member of the State House, spoke eloquently on the campaign trail about how watching his own mother’s end-of-life suffering led him to support a death-with-dignity bill. The bill, sponsored by State Representative Betsy Ritter, would legalize the medical practice of aid in dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults in Connecticut.

“Going through that and watching her suffer changed my perspective,” Holder-Winfield told The New Haven Independent.  “The whole time she was in pain. I’d go see her—sometimes she would cry the whole time.” He believes his mother would have wanted the choice to bring a peaceful end to her life.

The candidate Holder-Winfield defeated said he would vote against the legislation.  More