A bill that would allow terminally ill Connecticut adults to apply for drugs to help them die was suddenly derailed by unusual parliamentary procedure during a committee vote on Monday.
Proponents had expressed optimism that this would finally be the year when, after about a decade of emotional debates, the law would be voted through by the entire House and Senate and signed by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont.
However, Rep. Craig Fishbein, a Wallingford Republican and chief member of the House of Representatives on the General Assembly Judiciary Committee, tabled a motion for “a split of the committee.” This meant that only senators in the panel could vote on the legislation. In Connecticut, committees are made up of members of the House of Representatives and Senate.
Ultimately, the senators defeated the bill by a vote of 5 to 4. Democratic Senator Mae Flexer of Windham voted with the four Republicans against the measure.
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“It says a lot about support for medical care when dying, both inside and outside the Capitol, that opponents had to resort to a rarely used parliamentary maneuver to thwart legislation,” said Tim Appleton, campaign director for advocacy group Compassion & He said Monday’s vote will mean “immeasurable suffering” for terminally ill people who cannot wait for another legislative session before the law passes.
He said supporters plan to continue lobbying for the legislation, which had already been approved by the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee last month.
Sen. John Kissel, an Enfield Republican and the GOP chief senator on the Judiciary Committee, voted against the bill, calling it “atrocious public policy.” Instead, he proposed that government work to improve health care and adequately fund hospice care should be done.
“I just think we’re a better company than them,” he said.
In an emotional address to his fellow committee members, Senator Gary Winfield, a New Haven Democrat and the panel’s co-chair, acknowledged that he would have opposed the legislation years ago. However, the painful suffering his late mother endured nearly a decade ago changed his mind.
“Even if you’ve experienced death before,” he said, “one horrific death can change all of that.”
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