HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A legislative committee heard conflicting opinions Wednesday about a bill that would allow a physician in Connecticut to prescribe medication to a dying patient who wants to end his or her own life.

The hearing Wednesday was the first legislative public hearing before the Connecticut General Assembly on the right-to-die issue.

Advocates for people with disabilities said the legislation would be a “disaster” for people at risk of being abused. But proponents of the bill tried to assure lawmakers that the final proposal would be narrowly crafted.

Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, a chief proponent, said “the person who makes the decision has to be the patient.”

She said the person would have to be mentally competent and able to self-administer the drug in order to take his or her own life.

“The bill, I believe, gives an individual patient and only that patient, the ability to make their decision to end their life in advance of what has been determined to be the end of a terminal illness,” she said.

But in written testimony, Cathy Ludlum of Manchester, a disabilities rights activist who has spinal muscular atrophy, said Connecticut’s current bill goes beyond laws in two states where assisted suicide is legal. She said it eliminates the waiting periods that exist in Oregon and Washington and does not have a mandatory second opinion requirement, an issue some lawmakers raised.

Ludlum said “pro-suicide activists have shown their true radical agenda” by pushing for the bill.

The legislation will likely be retooled before it faces a committee vote. The panel has until April 5 to act on the bill.


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