- Associated Press - Monday, April 4, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska’s longest-serving lawmaker has adopted a new cause that he plans to pursue every year: allowing adults with terminal illnesses to end their own lives.

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha filed a motion Monday to pull his aid-in-dying bill out of a legislative committee where it remains stuck. He said he expected the effort to fall short, which it did: The motion won only nine of the needed 25 votes to bring the bill to the floor for debate.

But he vowed to keep pushing the issue, saying he filed the motion to prompt discussion among both lawmakers and the public.

“In Nebraska, it’s time has not come,” Chambers said. “But it’s on the way. It is inevitable. I just hope I’m here to welcome it.”

Chambers is well-known for his efforts over four decades to abolish the death penalty, which lawmakers repealed last year. The 78-year-old senator is up for re-election this year and is eligible to serve another four years before term limits require him to step down.

The legislation would allow patients to self-administer an aid-in-dying drug prescribed by their doctor. Patients would have to request the prescription orally and in writing, with a statement signed by two witnesses. Both witnesses would have to attest that the patient is capable of making medical decisions and is making the request voluntarily without coercion.

The bill would only apply to patients who are believed to have less than six months to live, and patients could rescind the request at any time.

During a hearing in February, the measure drew emotional support from residents who watched their loved ones suffer through slow, painful deaths. Some medical associations and professionals oppose the legislation, as does Gov. Pete Ricketts. Religious organizations and the group Nebraska Right to Life also raised objections.

Montana, Oregon, Washington, Vermont and California currently have similar end-of-life laws, according to the group Compassion and Choices.

Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island opposed the measure, saying the medical profession has made “great strides” to ease suffering through hospice and respite care. Gloor, a former hospital administrator, said he was uncomfortable with what the bill proposed.

“We can do a better job with end-of-life care, but I don’t believe this approach is the right one,” he said.


The bill is LB1056

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