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Physicians Challenge Connecticut’s|Ban on Doctor-Assisted Suicide

HARTFORD (CN) - Two Connecticut doctors who treat terminally ill patients challenged a state law that threatens physicians with criminal penalties for providing "aid in dying." Drs. Gary Blick and Ronald Levine say that aid in dying is a medical term, and is sometimes the best treatment available for a dying patient with untreatable, painful symptoms. The doctors say the law "impairs their ability to provide appropriate and adequate medical care to their patients."

Under Connecticut law, a doctor can be prosecuted for second-degree manslaughter if he or she "intentionally causes or aids another person, other than by force, duress or deception, to commit suicide."

But in their Superior Court complaint, Blick and Levine say it is not suicide when a mentally competent, terminally ill patient chooses to end a dying process that has become "unbearable."

Acceptable forms of care can provide a patient with only "a small degree of symptomatic relief" or terminal sedation that produces unconsciousness in the weeks or days before death, according to the complaint.

Faced with the choice between "prolonged and unrelieved anguish on the one hand, or unconsciousness and total loss of control and personal dignity on the other," the plaintiffs say that some patients prefer to take medication to "bring about a peaceful death."

The doctors seek declaratory and injunctive relief. They want the Office of the Division of Criminal Justice, 13 state's attorneys and the chief state's attorney enjoined from prosecuting any licensed physician who provides aid in dying.

They are represented by Jamie Mills and Dan Kirsch with Horton, Shields & Knox, and Kathryn Tucker of Denver.


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