NEW HAVEN – Legislative proposals to allow doctors to prescribe fatal prescriptions to people diagnosed with a terminal illness are not seen as a good option by Connecticut adults, according to a new Knights of Columbus-Marist poll.
By five points (50 percent to 45 percent), Connecticut residents believe doctors should only be allowed to remove medical interventions or manage the patient’s illness, as opposed to administering or prescribing a fatal drug dose.
Majorities also harbor deep concerns about the provisions, dangers and consequences of such legislation, according to the poll.
Only 10 percent of respondents say they would definitely ask a doctor to help end their lives with lethal drugs if they were terminally ill.
By contrast, almost two-thirds (64 percent) would definitely not or probably not seek assisted suicide.
A public hearing on H.B. 7015, "An Act Concerning Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Patients," was held before the judiciary committee March 18 at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.
“The people of Connecticut are deeply concerned about the possible tragic consequences of this legislation, and want doctors to heal and relieve pain rather than to be agents of death,” said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson. “Legislation along these lines would sow distrust in the doctor-patient relationship. The most vulnerable – those with an incorrect diagnosis, as well as the mentally ill and depressed, and those with lower quality health insurance – would be particularly at risk.”
Mr. Anderson added, “There are many issues that are actually pressing matters for Connecticut; this is not one of them.”
Most Connecticut residents have heard little or nothing about this proposal (63 percent), including 56 percent who express support for the pending legislation. Additionally, nearly two-thirds worry that those without better health insurance could have fewer end-of-life options (64 percent), with a similar percentage (63 percent) concerned that patients who suffer from depression will be more likely to want to take their own lives.
Nearly six in 10 (57 percent) worry that a patient’s state of mind may be misjudged, and more than six in 10 (62 percent) worry that the doctor’s prediction of the course of the disease could be inaccurate. About the same number (61 percent) worry that the elderly could be at risk in nursing homes or health care facilities.
Notably, 43 percent of Connecticut adults are also less likely to trust doctors who prescribe fatal doses of drugs, including 53 percent of those who do not have a position on the legislation and 81 percent who oppose it.
When residents were asked only if they support or oppose this bill, without any context concerning the range of end of life options, a majority (52 percent) say they support it. That support turns negative as soon as residents are asked specifically what a doctor’s role should be.
Even one in five supporters of legislation to allow assisted suicide believes doctors should only be allowed to remove life support or manage a terminal illness and actually do not think doctors should be able to prescribe or administer a fatal drug dose. Ninety-one percent of people who oppose assisted suicide legislation and seventy-one percent of residents who do not take a position share the view that doctors should not be able to prescribe or administer a lethal drug dose to a terminally ill patient.
This survey of 403 Connecticut adults was conducted Jan. 14-17 as part of a national study on end- of-life decisions. Done by The Marist Poll, it is sponsored and funded in partnership with the Knights of Columbus.
Adults 18 years of age and older residing in the Connecticut were interviewed in English by telephone, using live interviewers. Landline telephone numbers were randomly selected based upon a list of telephone exchanges from throughout the state from ASDE Survey Sampler Inc. The exchanges were selected to ensure that each region was represented in proportion to its population.
Respondents in the household were selected by asking for the youngest male. To increase coverage, this landline sample was supplemented by respondents reached through random dialing of cell phone numbers from Survey Sampling International. The two samples were then combined and balanced to reflect the 2010 census results for age, gender, income, race and region. Results are statistically significant within plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.