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Conn. Assisted Suicide Bill Draws Large Crowd

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut lawmakers on Monday heard emotional testimony, at times wrenching personal stories, from people who both oppose and support proposed legislation that would allow physicians to prescribe medication to help terminally ill patients end their lives.

A large crowd turned out for the second public hearing held on the topic by the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee in two years. Many opposed to the bill, including a Roman Catholic priest and nun, wore stickers that read “Got Second Thoughts?” Some who favor the legislation wore stickers that read, “My Life, My Death, My Choice.”

More than 400 people submitted written testimony on the bill.

Despite all the interest, it’s unclear whether there’s enough support to vote the bill out of committee. Last year, the panel decided not to act on a similar version of the legislation.

Many who testified at Monday’s hearing did so from motorized wheelchairs.

Sara Meyers of Kent was diagnosed three years ago with Lou Gehrig’s disease, a degenerative disorder that attacks nerve cells that control the muscles. She described to legislators how it would be a relief to know she had the ability to end her life peacefully, with the help of a doctor’s prescription, even though she wasn’t sure whether she would go through with it.

“That I could do it in a loving, peaceful way, it would just let me rest a whole lot easier,” she said, adding how she would not have to worry about putting her loved ones in legal jeopardy.

But many disabilities rights advocates found the legislation offensive.

Cathy Ludlum of Manchester, who has spinal muscular atrophy, said the bill is “not about choice and it’s not about compassion,” a reference to the name of the advocacy organization lobbying for the legislation.

“It is about, first and foremost, about disability phobia,” she said.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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