Medical Aid-in-Dying Proposal on November Ballot in Colorado

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By Tripp Baltz

Sept. 19 — A proposition that would allow doctors to prescribe medical aid-in-dying drugs to terminally ill patients will go before voters in Colorado in November.

The measure, Proposition 106, would allow terminally ill individuals with a prognosis of six months or less to live to request and self-administer medical aid-in-dying medication to voluntarily end their lives.

The measure also would provide for criminal penalties for tampering with someone’s request for medical aid-in-dying medication or knowingly coercing a person with a terminal illness to request the medication to end his or her life.

Strong Opposition

A citizens’ initiative campaign pushed for the measure for the ballot after attempts failed in the Colorado General Assembly in 2015 and 2016, Carrie Ann Lucas, spokeswoman for Coloradans Against Assisted Suicide, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 16.

Lucas said the measure is a bad policy for Colorado, which “already has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. We don’t need to do anything else to increase rates of suicide for people who are depressed.”

Colorado had the sixth-highest number of suicides per 100,000 population, according to November 2014 data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Also, Lucas said, Proposition 106 as written “lacks appropriate safeguards.” No medical personnel are required at the time the patient takes the drugs to make sure the drugs are used properly and to deal with any complications that might arise, she said. “Also, no one would be there to make sure the patient is not being coerced.”

Change in Statute

The campaign committee advancing the measure, which would be a change in Colorado’s statutory law as opposed to a new constitutional amendment, said that seven out of 10 voters back the initiative.

The measure “will allow a mentally capable, terminally ill adult to request aid-in-dying medication from their physician that the person can self-administer to shorten a dying process that becomes unbearable,” the group, Compassion and Choices Action Network-Colorado, said on its website.

The campaign submitted 155,676 signatures to get on the ballot, 108,777 of which were determined to be valid based on a random sample, according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. In the 2016 election cycle, a minimum of 98,492 signatures is required to get on the ballot, the office said.

Four states—California, Oregon, Vermont and Washington—provide for physician-assisted suicide, Rita Marker, attorney and executive director of the Patients Rights Council in Steubenville, Ohio, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 16. Montana allows physicians to use as a defense in a criminal proceeding the fact that a patient consented to the use of lethal drugs to end his or her own life, Marker said.

Colorado is the only state with an “aid-in-dying” measure on the ballot this November, she said.

“It’s always wrong for a doctor to help a patient commit suicide,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tripp Baltz in Denver at abaltz@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Brian Broderick at bbroderick@bna.com

For More Information

For information about Proposition 106, go to http://src.bna.com/iGJ.

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