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Assisted suicide bill won't be voted on by Connecticut legislative committee this session

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HARTFORD, Connecticut — A bill that would allow Connecticut physicians to prescribe medication to help terminally ill patients end their lives won't be voted on during this year's legislative session, the co-chairman of the General Assembly's Public Health Committee said Tuesday.

Windham Rep. Susan Johnson said Tuesday there is not enough time to address various outstanding issues with the bill. This year's short legislative session ends May 7.

"We worked very hard on that bill and there's a lot of work left to do," Johnson said.

This marks the second year in a row that the Public Health Committee has held a public hearing on such legislation and committee members did not take a vote.

Johnson said the Judiciary Committee is better suited to tackle certain outstanding issues with the bill, such as determining a patient's competency, whether they're under any duress, and how they can be protected from people with criminal intentions.

"Those kinds of things need to be ironed out," she said.

Proponents vowed to return with another bill next year, when there will be a longer legislative session.

"I'm very sorry that we're not able to move the bill further this year," said Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford. "We heard from people who wanted it badly."

Ritter said she was pleased, however, by the attention paid to the issue this year, adding how "the discussion just exploded across the state." Tim Appleton, the state director of the advocacy group Compassion and Choices, said he expects support will grow more between now and next year's legislative session.

Opponents have questioned the level of support for the bill, claiming outside groups are pushing the issue in Connecticut. They've vowed to fight future bills.

"The collateral damage from legalizing assisted suicide — including massive elder abuse, the deadly mix with a cost-cutting health care system steering people to suicide, misdiagnosis and incorrect prognosis, suicide contagion, and disability discrimination in suicide prevention — is simply not fixable," said Stephen Mendelsohn, of Second Thoughts Connecticut.

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