Mar 16, 2014
02:02 PMConnecticut Today
HIV Equal Effort Doctor, Mother, 92, Back Connecticut Aid in Dying Bill
Two Stamford powerhouses who have been allied in the past, Gov. Dannel Malloy and 92-year-old volunteer and activist Gloria Blick, may find themselves somewhat in opposition Monday when the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee holds a hearing on House Bill 5326, which advocates say would offer “compassionate aid in dying” for the terminally ill.
Opponents of the bill have a different term for what the state might authorize: physician assisted suicide.
An Associated Press story published Saturday by the Register Citizen and other Connecticut media outlets said Malloy “wants to see the final language of a bill that would allow physicians in Connecticut to prescribe medication to help terminally ill patients end their lives.”
The governor, AP reported, is “a little uneasy” about Connecticut passing a law allowing “proactive actions to end life.”
“Malloy said he doesn’t believe society should be viewed as encouraging suicide and wants to understand the safeguards included in the proposed legislation,” the AP story says.
Gloria Blick, who, among her public service credentials, was appointed by Malloy when he was mayor of Stamford to serve on the city’s Commission on Aging, has no such hesitations.
“My feeling for all of us, for anybody who wishes to make that choice … [when] there’s nothing else left for you [is]: Why must we suffer, why can’t we having the dignity of making the choice,” Blick said on the phone Friday in describing her plans to head to the Capitol Monday to testify with her son, Dr. Gary Blick (left), the co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of Norwalk-based World Health Clinicians (WHC), who has launched a high-profile HIV Equal anti-stigma and testing campaign.
Without a compassionate aid in dying law, Gloria Blick said, “We must suffer. We must watch our dear ones suffer. We must watch our friends suffer and not give them the opportunity to say, “I’ve had enough, I want to go in peace now.’”
Blick, who just turned 92, has already sent the General Assembly her thoughts on the bill, which the state has posted online. In the document, she talks about being with friends as they struggle with loved ones whose cancer will kill them, but are forced to experience agony and indignity that are inevitable—unless the state intervenes with a law.
“Think about what’s going to happen when your time comes and you’re not able to take care of yourself,” Blick said on the phone.
“She’s 92 years old and anything can happen at any time,” her son said in a separate call Friday. “She doesn’t want to go through terminal illness and suffering.”
Dr. Blick has seen his share of suffering and indignity. He has done significant work with AIDS in Afirca—he’s opening a clinic in Zimbabwe, bringing the HIV Equal campaign there and Gloria Blick is going with him for the launch—and the nonprofit WHC was founded in September 2010 by Blick and Executive Director Scott Gretz to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections in the developed and developing world.
Among the WHC's initiatives is the HIV Equal effort, whose tagline is, “Everybody has an HIV status. We are all HIV equal.” Launched here on the East Coast and planned to go nationwide, it's designed to raise about awareness about HIV and the need for HIV testing, specifically among younger people, while reducing the stigma surrounding the disease, which these days can be managed effectively.
“Public opinion is shifting in favor of death with dignity policy, which simply provides more choices to people who are terminally ill,” Dr. Blick said in a release from World Health Clinicians. “Since 2008, we have seen five states adopt such legislation. And since I first brought my lawsuit to the Connecticut courts back in 2010 in an attempt to overturn the 1969 state statute that carries a second-degree manslaughter charge for anyone assisting a dying patient, I’m now confident that this state will be next in line to provide patients with yet another choice in healthcare. I’m proud to stand alongside my mother as we continue to fight for patients‘ rights, as well as with Compassion & Choices, the organization that has been at the forefront of this battle.”
In the conversation Friday, Dr. Blick said he understands that there’s opposition to the bill.
“The people on the religious right really have a position that I understand,” he said. “Aid in dying is not for everybody at all.”
But it is another option for people who are terminally ill, he said, advising the bill’s opponents: “Don’t press those religious views on everybody.”
Monday’s hearing begins at 10:30 a.m. on the bill that supporters say would provide a personal and dignified choice to terminally ill—to mentally competent patients who find that their interminable suffering has significantly if not entirely reduced their quality of life.
Similar bills have become law in five states across the U.S., including New Mexico, Vermont, Montana, Washington and Oregon, WHC noted in its release.
In a recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, 61 percent of voters support allowing doctors to prescribe medication to terminally ill patients who choose aid in dying as a healthcare option, WHC said. A recent poll conducted by Compassion & Choices put public support in Connecticut at 65 percent.
“Dr. Blick has been a pioneer in Connecticut for this legislation,” Tim Appleton of Compassion & Choices said. “With the kind of advocacy that he and his mother have provided on this vital legislation, we are confident that death with dignity will become the law here.”
While both Blicks are energized to testify Monday, Gloria Blick is also enthusiastically looking forward to going to Zimbabwe to see the new clinic. “I can’t wait to go out there to see it,” she said. “It’s very exciting to be part of Gary’s life.”
For more information about Dr. Blick or World Health Clinicians, visit the website at www.worldhealthclinicians.org. To learn more about Compassion & Choices or the “Compassionate Aid In Dying Act,” see the site at www.compassionandchoices.org.