Jan 26, 3:18 AM EST

Seniors march on Capitol in support of "death with dignity" bills

PHOENIX (AP) -- Sign-waving senior citizens stormed the state Capitol seeking the right to end their own lives should they fall terminally ill.

Arizona's first "Million Geezer March for Human Freedom and Human Dignity" attracted about 100 seniors from around the state Wednesday.

They lobbied in support of bills sponsored by Rep. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, that would provide immunity to doctors prescribing medicines that would end the lives of terminally ill patients.

"This legislation is to provide us with a choice - the power to decide for ourselves how and when to move on from this world to the next," said Freda Anderson, a Scottsdale resident who marched Wednesday.

Anderson, who lost her husband to liver cancer in 2004, said he died in excruciating pain.

"I find it ironic that in this country ... We can put murderers to death by lethal injection, we can humanely put our beloved pets out of their misery when it is their time, but kind, gentle humans who have lived a full life and are ready to move on from the pain and suffering, be it physical or mental, forget it," Anderson said.

Lopez said she decided to sponsor the bills after losing close relatives to prolonged illnesses.

"I watched my grandfather die in agony," she said. "I watched my own father die in agony. My father begged me to bring him a gun so he could end his suffering... These citizens deserve to have the choice to determine their own destiny, to write their own final chapter."

Modeled on Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, the bills allow people with less than six months to live to request a prescription that will end their lives. They prohibit physicians from administering the fatal dose themselves.

The bills face an uphill battle, however.

"They don't have a chance of passing," said Rep. Doug Quelland, R-Phoenix, who is chairman of the Health Committee. "With all the time that we've been taking in special session, I don't have nearly enough time to hear all the bills that do have a chance of passing in my health committee. I just don't have the time to hear bills that aren't going to pass anyway."

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