April 23rd, 2010
08:43 AM ET

Dying with dignity?

Program Note: Don't miss Randi Kaye's full report on AC360° tonight at 10 p.m. ET.

Hannah Yi
AC360° Production Assistant

Dr. Gary Blick has been an HIV/AIDS specialist for 23 years. He has cared for his patients at their healthiest until their final days. And those final days have always been the hardest.

“I’m a physician, but I’m a human being on top of this,” said Dr. Blick of Norwalk, Connecticut. “It’s really suffering to watch your patients go slowly and agonizingly.”

During those final days with patients, Dr. Blick has repeatedly gotten one request: to help them die quickly and with dignity.

“Many times they have begged me to help them,” Dr. Blick said. “They actually beg for these medications.”

He means medication like Percocet, Xanax or other prescription pills that patients can get at their local pharmacies. However if his patients were to overdose on medication he prescribed, Dr. Blick would be charged with second-degree manslaughter. Under Connecticut law, it’s a felony to intentionally aid another person in committing suicide.

So Dr. Blick, along with Connecticut physician Dr. Ron Levine, is suing the state so he won’t have to go to jail when it comes time to help his patients with death. The two physicians want the court to clarify that that the action does not constitute assisted suicide.

“We’re not talking about hooking up a potassium chloride drip and having our patient’s heart stopped from arrhythmia,” said Dr. Blick.” We’re talking about terminally ill patients who I’ve counseled over the years, and that I would like to be able to give them prescriptions and help them die with dignity.”

However, opponents say there is no other way to interpret the action of a doctor who knowingly provides drugs for the purpose of killing.

“Doctors who want to be able to legally prescribe poison so that a patient will kill themselves – that’s not medicine,” said Wesley J. Smith of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. “That is suicide as described in any dictionary.”

And that’s what is currently in the books in Connecticut, which Dr. Blick and his terminally ill patients hope to overturn.

You can find more information about Blick v. Connecticut at Compassion and Choices.

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