Terminally ill patients testify for right to die on their terms

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DENVER -- It is a topic that sparked some of the most emotionally charged testimony at the General Assembly this session: Should Coloradans have the right to die?

Joellyn Duesberry, a terminally ill pancreatic cancer patient, spoke about her desire not to be a burden for her family. Duesberry spoke at a Senate committee where more than three hours of testimony from both sides took place Wednesday.

"I want my dying to be in some service of humanity," Duesberry said. "Who would it hurt if my family and my doctor and my friends decided to cut the suffering short?"

For those opposed to the bill, the testimony was equally passionate. Rabbis sat next to ministers in the room. The Catholic Church has already indicated it is strongly opposed.

"Suicide totally devalues human life," Dr. Thomas Newman said while testifying against the bill. "A physician was never meant to be an instrument of death."

Opponents of the bill appear to be headed to a victory. Analysts said the Senate committee where it is being heard is controlled by Republicans where opposition appears to exist.

The Senate bill's sponsor, Mike Merrifield, said it's worth fighting for even though it faces an uphill battle.

"You have the right to make that decision yourself but you don't have the right to tell me what God wants," Merrifield said to his critics.

A similar bill will be heard in the House on Thursday where it is expected to receive a warmer reception.

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