By Pat Kessler

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The State Senate today opened hearings on a bill legalizing assisted suicide in Minnesota.

It’s called the “Compassionate Care Act”, and gives terminally ill patients the right to take their own lives.

Five states already allow terminally ill patients to end their lives under very specific medical circumstances. Supporters say it’s dignified and compassionate, but critics call it cruel and unusual.

Hundreds of people lined up outside the Senate for the plan giving terminally ill patients the right to die.

“Right-to-die” advocates included Dan Diaz: He told 60 Minutes on Sunday why he and his wife Brittany moved to Oregon during her battle with brain tumors– so she could legally take her own life.

Diaz says Minnesotans should have the same right.

“Blindness, paralysis, that was what was waiting for her,” he said Wednesday. And Brittany simply said, ‘I will not die that way.'”

The Minnesota bill allows specific terminally ill patients with six months to live to obtain medication to end their lives. Two doctors must evaluate them first, and the patient must be able to self-administer the drug.

Lawmakers heard stories of families whose loved ones wanted suicide, but died in pain instead. Others are trying to stop the law.

Opponents said legally assisted suicide is a slippery slope to elder abuse, and euthanasia. Kathy Ware says “Right To Die” laws devalue her 21-year old son Kylin, who has cerebral palsy.

“You know, I feel sad and I feel angry,” she said. “I want people to see his life as being valuable and dignified and as having worth.”

Oregon has had a right-to-die law for 17 years. California is the latest state to allow terminally ill patients to end their lives. Patients will be able to apply for the lethal medication beginning this June.

The bill’s author says hundreds could take advantage of it, but not everyone who gets the medication actually uses it. In Oregon during the last 17 years, 1,327 people were approved for the drug and 859 people successfully used it.

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