DENVER, CO (Feb. 21, 2017) — Coloradans today met with their state legislators to emphasize the importance of protecting the End-of-Life Options Act, reminding them that voters passed the new law by an overwhelming 30-point margin (65% vs. 35%) in November. The End-of-Life Options Act allows mentally capable adults in Colorado who are in the final stages of a terminal illness to self-administer medication to bring about a peaceful death.
Julie Selsberg is an attorney in Denver and co-petitioner of Proposition 106: End-of-Life Options Act. Her father, Charles Selsberg, passed away from ALS and wrote this open letter to legislators in support of medical aid in dying and today is planning to meet with Rep. Leslie Herod and Sen. Angela Williams.
“Whether you are a current or future patient, doctor, pharmacist or legislator, it is important to understand how the law works. That is why we are here today,” said Selsberg. “We need to remind our legislators that Colorado voters overwhelmingly said they wanted this law, and any attempt to weaken it or restrict access to medical aid in dying undermines the will of the voters.”
Compassion & Choices, a national end-of-life choice advocacy organization with headquarters in Denver, is leading a bilingual campaign to educate people across the state about the new law and encourage people to talk to their doctors about whether they support it and how to access medical aid in dying. Kat West, national director of policy and programs at Compassion & Choices, said that an ongoing dialogue and education is the best way to help all Coloradans navigate the new law.
“Passing the law in November did not signal the end of the work to improve end-of-life care and choice in Colorado,” said West. “Instead it signals the start of the work to ensure that eligible Coloradans have real and meaningful access to the full range of end-of-life options, including medical aid in dying, if their suffering becomes unbearable and other medical treatment options cannot offer relief.”
Littleton resident Patti James is a former nurse who was diagnosed with lung cancer 10 years ago. After being with her father as he suffered at the end of his life, she wants to ensure that Coloradans who are terminally ill have access to medical aid in dying if they want this option.
“I worked in a nursing home early in my career and was concerned by how much pain some patients endured and how their prolonged deaths often eroded their dignity,” said James, a retired nurse. “As nurses, we would wonder how long the person would have to suffer. Now people in our state have access to a more peaceful passing.”
Compassion & Choices is partnering with government agencies, healthcare systems, non-profit organizations and a vast network of volunteers to conduct community trainings to ensure that all Coloradans know about medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option and doctors can provide their patients with the full range of end-of-life care and choice.
In addition, Compassion & Choices has a Doc2Doc consultation program that offers physicians readily available, free, confidential telephone consultation with one of our seasoned medical directors, each with years of experience in end-of-life medical care. Dr. Cory Carroll, a family physician in Fort Collins, is helping to educate fellow doctors about medical aid in dying.
“Medical aid in dying should be normalized and integrated into the standard of care in Colorado, so that every terminally ill adult has meaningful access to this care option through their own medical team,” said Dr. Carroll. “Coloradans who are interested in this option should start having conversations now by asking their doctors whether they would write a prescription for aid-in-dying medication should a person become terminally ill and want a prescription.”