One year after the implementation of the End-of-Life Options Act, which authorizes medical aid in dying for terminally ill adults, data and personal stories compiled by Compassion & Choices show the law is working as intended.
The law gives mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or fewer to live the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to take to die peacefully if their end-of-life suffering becomes unbearable. The law took effect on Dec. 16, 2016, after its adoption as the most popular ballot measure in recent state history (65% voted ‘yes’ vs. 35% voted ‘no’). In addition to Colorado, medical aid in dying is authorized in five other states, California, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.
“Colorado’s first year of implementation has been a success and is working as voters intended,” said Kat West, National Director of Policy and Programs for Compassion & Choices. “All of the large secular healthcare systems have adopted policies supportive of patient end-of-life decision making. The promises made during the ballot campaign have been kept. Over a dozen safeguards are in place without unnecessary regulatory barriers that reduce dying people’s access to the law. The Colorado law’s implementation progress has been on par, if not better in some regards, with medical aid-in-dying laws that took effect in California last year and in Oregon 20 years ago.”
“When we actually got the medication, it was like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She was down to 76 pounds, and she put on four pounds which was a big deal. She felt so much more at ease with life in general,” Herb Myers, an Aurora resident, said about his wife, Kathy. Kathy Myers is believed to be the first Coloradan to receive a prescription for medical aid in dying. “The fact is, it [her death] was very gentle.”
“Studies have demonstrated that having medical aid in dying available provides comfort and peace of mind to dying people so they can live their remaining days to the fullest,” West said. “And the stories of people who have utilized the law, like Kathy Myers, prove that the law is working as intended.”
Dr. Cory Carroll, a family physician in Fort Collins, has participated in the law: “Neither patients nor doctors are forced to participate, and the experience from other states that have this kind of law on the books shows it improves physician-patient relationships as well as increases utilization of hospice and palliative care.”
Compassion & Choices also defended funding for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s annual reporting on the law during the 2017 legislative session, ultimately preserving the budget line. The voters of Colorado made it clear that they value this medical option, and the level of reporting required by the ballot measure when they passed it by a 30-point margin in November 2016.
Compassion & Choices will continue to provide support and education to the public and medical professionals through its bilingual Access Campaign to ensure that every eligible, terminally ill person who feels that medical aid in dying is an important option has access to the End-of-Life Options Act.
*81 healthcare facilities are located in the following 30 towns: Aurora (3 facilities), Boulder (21 facilities), Broomfield, Buena Vista, Canon City (2 facilities), Castle Rock, Colorado City, Colorado Springs (4 facilities), Delta (7 facilities), Denver (4 facilities), Englewood (3 facilities), Fort Collins, Fort Morgan, Fruita, Hotchkiss, La Junta, Lafayette (4 facilities), Lakewood, Littleton, Lone Tree (3 facilities), Longmont (3 facilities), Louisville, Loveland, Paonia, Parker, Pueblo (6 facilities), Salida (2 facilities), Steamboat Springs, Superior, and Thornton (2 facilities).
**16 hospices are located in the following 15 towns: Canon City, Colorado Springs, Craig, Denver (2 hospices), Fowler, La Junta, Northglenn, Pueblo, Pueblo, Steamboat Springs, Steamboat Springs, Trinidad, Walsenburg, and Westminster.