Christine Stuart photo

The Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference delivered 21,000 signatures Monday to the legislature’s Judiciary Committee co-chairs.

The signatures were in opposition to aid-in-dying legislation, which the church believes is more aptly defined as physician-assisted suicide. The legislation would allow patients with less than six months to live to seek a doctor’s help to end their lives.

Michael Culhane, executive director of the Catholic conference, said end-of-life issues are always difficult, but “pallative care is the way to go.”

A similar bill was defeated in the Public Health Committee in 2013 and 2014. This year is the first year it’s before the Judiciary Committee for an initial vote. The committee has two weeks to act on it before its deadline.

“I think if they had the votes in 2013 and 2014 they would have called the bill,” Culhane said. “It died in committee both years.”

Culhane said he doesn’t believe the Judiciary Committee has the votes to move the legislation forward.

Tim Appleton, Connecticut campaign manager of Compassion & Choices, a nonprofit organization committed to giving people choices at the end of their lives, said the Connecticut public supports “end of life choice.”

He said he has great confidence that legislation will eventually pass because the fundamentals of the debate have not changed.

“The more we continue to educate members of the public and legislators about the issue, the more support we have,” Appleton said Monday in a phone interview.

Appleton pointed to a Quinnipiac University poll, which found support for legislation that would allow a doctor to prescribe lethal drugs to help a terminally ill patient end his or her life. The poll found 63 percent of voters support the concept, even among voters over the age of 55.

Opponents say support for the measure declines dramatically when the word “suicide” is added to the question.

“It does not matter how many church lobbyists deliver petitions; the people of Connecticut support aid in dying and the church will be on the wrong side of history, again,” Appleton said.

The Judiciary Committee has two more weeks to act on the legislation.