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Op-Ed: Selling suicide with George Soros' money

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Opinion,Op-Eds

As Connecticut lawmakers begin public hearings on assisted suicide this month, national advocacy groups like Compassion & Choices will mobilize to help create the illusion that the proposed bill is a grassroots initiative.

It isn't.

Contrary to the claims of those legislators who are promoting the bill, there is no grassroots cry for assisted suicide. Rather, there is an effort by well-funded advocacy groups to make Connecticut the leader in assisted suicide in the Northeast.

If the General Assembly votes to legalize the practice, it will be the first state legislature to do so. Lawmakers have already promised to push it forward. They know there is a payoff for promoting this bill, much of it coming from George Soros through Compassion & Choices.

Soros has been one of the biggest donors to Compassion & Choices. In 2010, Compassion & Choices was listed as one of the "top 75 Grantees" of the Soros American Foundations.

Receiving $1 million from the Soros Foundation in 2010, Compassion & Choices has been able to convince Connecticut lawmakers that it would be in their best interest to promote "death with dignity" in the state.

Selling suicide to lawmakers involves convincing them that it is in their best interest. Changing the name of their suicide group was the first step. In a filing in Colorado on Oct. 29, 2004, the Hemlock Foundation for End of Life Choices changed its name to Compassion & Choices.

Life memberships were grandfathered -- perhaps no one noticed the irony -- and quickly forgotten was all of the negative publicity that accompanied Derek Humphry, founder of the Hemlock Society. Humphry's wife and his ex-wife ended their lives through suicide.

Connecticut's residents are already seeing the marketing campaign. The advocates have advanced their cause with compelling stories of suffering patients whose last hours were eased by a courageous family member who assisted with the suicide.

But the New York Times reported that in Washington and Oregon, suicide-prescribing doctors who submitted forms to the state admitted that all of those who chose the suicide option chose it because of fears of a lack of autonomy -- not protracted pain.

While most of those promoting assisted suicide in Connecticut promise that their bill will finally end the kinds of painful deaths that so many people fear, the reality is that Connecticut has some of the best hospice care and pain management in the country.

That may change now that Soros has also gotten involved in the funding for palliative care. In 2010, Soros gave $2.7 million to the Partnership for Palliative Care.

At a conference in Chicago called "Heights of Compassion: Bridges to Choice," advocates from palliative care and the assisted suicide communities held joint meetings in an attempt to find "common ground" enabled by more than $3.7 million of Soros' money.

Soros will continue this commitment. In 1994, he donated $15 million to the Project on Death in America. In an introduction to the 2003 Report of Activities of the Project on Death in America, published by the Open Society, Soros wrote a personal essay titled "Reflections on Death in America," in which he disclosed that he admired his mother's having "joined the Hemlock Society."

Soros claimed that his mother "had at her hand the means of doing away with herself." He recalls asking her "if she needed my help."

Attempts to pass assisted suicide bills will continue. But suicide is still a hard sell. Massachusetts' voters just defeated a similar bill. Maine has also. But, in Connecticut, the legislature is attempting to bypass the voters.

If it does this, it will empower those promoting suicide in Vermont, New Jersey, Kansas and Hawaii. Massachusetts will try again. For Soros, it will be money well spent.

Anne Hendershott is a distinguished visiting professor of public affairs at King's College in New York City and the author of "The Politics of Deviance" (Encounter Books). She is a Connecticut resident.

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