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.
For decades now, a majority of Americans have supported death with dignity (Forbes) and a majority of physicians also support the right of terminally ill and medically competent patients to choose how and when to end suffering with the assistance of their physicians (Medscape).
Some may object to this bill on religious grounds, but personal religious beliefs should not set public policy for all Rhode Islanders. Others may have practical concerns about the risks of coercion on vulnerable populations, but H 5507 includes appropriate safeguards to help ensure that the patient is competent, not being coerced, and that the decision is a voluntary one.
When terminally ill patients are burdened with intolerable pain and suffering, they should know that their right to end their life safely and on their own terms is protected. It is unconscionable to force terminally ill patients to slowly starve or bleed to death when there are more humane ways to end their suffering. Our ability to choose, in death as well as life, empowers us and makes us human. Please urge your state senators to support S 589 on Thursday. You may also consider asking your representatives to act on H 5507. Let them know why this legislation matters to you. Find your legislator here.