Senate committee to discuss assisted suicide bill

The prospect of allowing doctors to legally help terminally ill patients end their lives in Tennessee is set for a legislative discussion next week.

The Senate Health & Welfare Committee will discuss the "death with dignity" legislation June 9, according to an announcement issued Tuesday.

"The bill was moved to summer study by a vote of the committee at the request of the sponsor, Sen. (Reginald) Tate, and that is what brings us to the upcoming hearing," said committee Chairman Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City.

"The bill was presented to us on the last day of our committee meetings, and we did not have sufficient time to fully air the philosophical and policy concerns regarding the legislation."

The controversial topic, also termed the "right to die" bill, received some debate during this year's legislative session. Tennessee law makes it a felony for a doctor to help a person commit suicide. Supporters of the bill, including longtime political activist John Jay Hooker, argue that law violates the state constitution, and terminally ill patients should have the ability to choose how they die.

"If I'm in a state to die, it's just a question of what day and what month, and my happiness is involved, do I want to sit there in bed and be the prisoner of that pain?" Hooker recently told The Tennessean.

"Does the government have the right to tell me I can't check out of this hotel? I say the government can't tell the people they can't do something that is in pursuit of their own happiness, and that doesn't involve anyone else."

The legislation, sponsored by Tate, D-Memphis, in the Senate and House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, was sent to "summer study" by lawmakers this session. That designation doesn't actually mean the measure will be studied though; it's a move often used to end legislation or delay discussion.

The hearing is set for 1 p.m. at legislative plaza.

Reach Dave Boucher at 615-259-8892 and on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.


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