Hearing to be held on suicide bill

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) -- Should mentally competent, terminally ill patients be allowed to take their own lives with the help of a physician?

Among all the controversial topics before the General Assembly this year this one is sparking some of the most emotional debate.

It's been more than 20 years since this issue was before Connecticut law makers but since then Oregon and a couple of other states have passed this law and some believe Connecticut should be next.

"There's no good God that would ever expect us not to help these people," said Rev. Douglas Peary, Meriden Unitarian-Universalist Church.

Advocates for 'assisted suicide,' what they prefer to call 'aid in dying' pushed for the new proposal today.

"Intractable pain and suffering unfortunately is the harsh reality for several terminally ill patients," said Republican Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, M.D. of Glastonbury.

"This is all about patient choice and death with dignity," said Gary Blick, M.D. of Norwalk.

The proposal would allow a doctor to prescribe a lethal dose prescription to a patient determined to be mentally competent but terminally ill.

It would be a lethal medication that could be taken by the patient at the patient's discretion, whenever the the pain and the outlook are too grim.

"This is not something for families of patients or friends of patients to be parts of the decision makers. It's for the patient to be essentially in the driver's seat," said Democratic Rep. Betsy Ritter, Quaker Hill.

Currently, if a physician were to do this it would be a felony but this proposal eliminates that. Opponents are lining up against it.

"We oppose this because it's bad public policy that will put vulnerable populations at risk; people with disabilities, the elderly...we're very concerned about elder abuse," said Peter Wolfgang, Family Institute of Conn.

"It clearly goes to the basic teachings of the church but it is beyond that, I think we as a society have to reach out to portect even one life," said Michael Culhane, Conn. Catholic Conference.

The advocates of this proposal say that is not a problem and that the law would include protections to insure patients are not coerced or influenced in their decision making.

A public hearing on this proposal is expected to be scheduled at the Capitol within the next few weeks.

Copyright 2014 WTNH TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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