What is the Yes on Colorado End-of-Life Options campaign, and what is its mission?
The Yes on Colorado End-of-Life Options campaign is a 501(c)(4) organization with the sole purpose of passing a ballot measure that would legalize the option of medical aid in dying for terminally ill, mentally capable adults who want to end their suffering. The measure (Proposition 106) is modeled after the successful Death with Dignity law in Oregon. That law has been in place for nearly 20 years with no proven instances of fraud or abuse.
How does Prop 106 work, and what are the eligibility criteria?
The Colorado End-of-Life Options Act (Prop 106) would have the same eligibility criteria as Oregon Death With Dignity Act, in effect since 1997. To be eligible for aid in dying under the Colorado End-of-Life Options Act the person must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- The person must be an adult
- The person must be terminally ill, with six months or less to live
- The person must be mentally capable of making their own healthcare decisions
- The person must be fully informed of all their options for care, including pain management, palliative care, hospice and comfort care
- Two physicians must determine the person has the ability to make and communicate informed decisions and is free from undue influence or coercion
- The person must be able to take the medication themselves
- The person must be a Colorado resident
- The physician must offer the person multiple opportunities to take back the request for aid in dying medication
- Two witnesses must sign the request form confirming that the person is mentally capable and the request is voluntary
- Wills, contracts, insurance and annuity policies are not affected by a person choosing aid in dying
How much support does Prop 106 have, and who supports it?
Public research suggests a majority of Coloradans support medical aid in dying when they understand the process and eligibility requirements as high as 65%. Nationally, polls show similar results with strong support across gender, political affiliation and age groups.
What other states authorize medical aid in dying, and have these measures proved effective? Have there been cases of misuse or abuse?
Medical aid in dying is authorized in five other states including Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and California. In Oregon where Death with Dignity has been authorized for nearly 20 years, there have been no proven cases of fraud or abuse.
What has Oregon’s experience been with its longstanding Death with Dignity Act?
In addition to no proven cases of fraud or abuse, research suggests that end-of -life care has improved overall because doctors and other caretakers are educating themselves about the law and having more conversations about the end-of-life planning with their patients. About one third of patients who received a prescription for the medication never use it, but report tremendous Ā peace of mind from knowing the option is available if their suffering becomes unbearable. This peace of mind frees them to focus on enjoying the time they have left with loved ones. Further, the state agency in Oregon responsible for protecting people with disabilities has confirmed that they have not received a single complaint of exploitation or coercion in relation to the law.
What is medical aid in dying, and how is it different from physician assisted suicide, euthanasia or mercy killing?
- The language in the End-of-Life Options Act is explicit. Section 25-48-121 says nothing in this article authorizes a physician or any other person to end an individual’s life by lethal injection, mercy killing, or euthanasia.
- Euthanasia and mercy killing are illegal everywhere in the United States. They are fundamentally different from the medical practice of aid in dying because they violate patient autonomy. The requirements of Prop 106 are clear that the decision to request and responsibility to administer the medication lie solely with the individual – no one can do it for them or to them.
- To a terminally ill person, the term assisted suicide is offensive and hurtful. Medical aid in dying has several fundamental differences from suicide.
- People who seek medical aid in dying have a terminal illness and want to live; the person considering suicide has no terminal illness, but wants to die.
- People who seek medical aid in dying are suffering life-ending illnesses and understand that their condition is no longer treatable there is no hope for a better outcome. Those considering suicide see no hope and do not recognize that their problems are treatable.
- People who seek aid in dying are deliberate in their request and often involve family in discussions with their physicians, reflecting a considered process. The act of suicide is secretive and often impulsive, without involvement of family, friends or healthcare professionals.
Is the Colorado End-of-Life Options Act similar to the Oregon Death with Dignity Act?
Yes. The Colorado End-of-life Options Act (Prop 106) is modeled after the 1997 Oregon Death with Dignity Act and includes all the same safeguards and protections. The one notable difference is that Colorado End-of-Life Options Act includes a best practice that was established by the medical community and the State of Oregon administrative agency that oversees aid in dying. Specifically, the Colorado End-of-Life Options Act (like the State of Washington measure) explicitly states that the underlying disease – not medical aid in dying- will be noted as the cause of death on the death certificate. This practice is consistent with how the cause of death is reported for all other forms of palliative care. As an example, with terminal sedation, the underlying disease – not terminal sedation – is noted as the cause of death on the death certificate. The same is true with withdrawal of a feeding tube.