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Connecticut Assisted Suicide Bill Finally Gets Hearing

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For the first time in Connecticut’s history, the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee allowed a legislative hearing about a physician-assisted suicide bill.

H.B. 6645 aims to allow physicians the ability to prescribe life-ending medications at the request of mentally competent, terminally ill patients. Patients would have to self-administer the drug.

Connecticut’s CBS affiliate reports that because Democratic State Sen. Ed Meyer of Guilford received so many phone calls supporting “Death with Dignity,” he chose to author the bill, which he insists is both compassionate and cautious.

“The bill that we’re hearing today, for example, requires two different physicians to certify under oath that the person is terminally ill, likely to die within six months and is mentally competent to make an informed decision about ending his or her life,” Meyer told WCBS 880.

Washington, Oregon and Montana have already approved the legislation known as “Death with Dignity.”

“If the legislators see the bill as providing a choice, an intelligent choice for people making an informed decision to end their life and end the misery and pain they’re going through at the end of life, I think the bill will go forward,” Meyer said.

However, the bill faces strong opposition from religious and social organizations, such as the Family Institute of Connecticut and Second Thoughts Connecticut. Such opposition could hold-up the bill’s passage.

“We will be killing our vulnerable parents and grandparents through public policy,” said Teresa Wells, a nursing home administrator, according to the Hartford Courant.

The Catholic Church has also been a vocal critic. The Church cites the lack of wait time between the necessary oral and written requests for drugs. Other states require a 15 day wait.

Meyer said he remains open to suggestions.

Proponents of the bill argue it would ensure individual freedoms at the end of life. “The deep yearning for increasing autonomy for patients themselves to have a voice, I think now it’s reaching a tipping point all across the world,” Compassion and Choices’ Barbara Coombs Lee told CBS. “I think the Baby Boomer generation has something to do with that.”

A similar bill was proposed in 2009, but it failed to garner a hearing. Connecticut has banned assisted suicide since the late 1960s.

Read the bill at Connecticut’s General Assembly Web site