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Compassion & Choices Launches Bilingual Access Campaign to Educate Coloradans about End-of-Life Options Act

Effort Focused on Terminally Ill Adults and their Families, Healthcare Professionals

Compassion & Choices today launched a statewide, bilingual campaign to educate terminally ill Coloradans, families and medical providers about the benefits and requirements of the state’s new medical aid-in-dying law that is expected to take effect later this month.

The 30-point margin of victory for the measure in Colorado demonstrates strong public support for the option of medical aid in dying across virtually all demographics in the state. Both men and women, Hispanics and whites and people with and without college degrees said they backed the proposal, according to exit polling conducted for The Associated Press and television networks in Colorado. Nationally, 69% of Hispanics support medical aid in dying, according to a new survey conducted by LifeWay Research.

The Colorado law will give mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication that they can decide to take to end unbearable suffering by dying peacefully in their sleep.

When the voter approved Prop. 106, Colorado End-of-Life Options Act, takes effect, 18% of the U.S. population will live in one of six states that authorize this end-of-life care option.

The Colorado Access Campaign is built on our nineteen years of experience helping to implement medical aid in dying laws in the five other states that have authorized medical aid in dying,” said Kat West, National Director of Policy & Programs for Compassion & Choices. “That’s why it is critical for Coloradans to start talking to their doctors today to find out if their doctors will support them if they were diagnosed with a terminal illness and want this option. There are terminally ill people right now who need this law, so it is urgent for doctors to understand this compassionate medical practice and respect the decisions of terminally ill individuals who want this option for the comfort and peace of mind it brings.”

Matt Larson, Coloradan living with brain cancer.

Matt Larson, Coloradan living with brain cancer.

Matt Larson, a Denver attorney diagnosed with brain cancer in the spring of 2015, at the age of 35, said he and his wife, Kelly, felt a sense of relief.

“Most of us have either experienced a devastating diagnosis or know someone who has. So understanding why people need to make deeply personal, difficult decisions without government involvement is something we can all empathize with, regardless of political persuasion,” said Larson. “There are a lot of questions as you face a diagnosis like I did. As patients – even those without a terminal diagnosis – we need to start talking to our doctors and other health care providers now. That is why I am so grateful to Compassion & Choices for helping us here in Colorado educate residents, doctors, pharmacists and others so that people who do have to make those tough decisions, do so with as much information as they – and their families – want and need.”

Julie Selsberg was a co-petitioner of the measure and is working to help with implementation because she does not want

Julie Selsberg and father, Charles Selsberg, who died  from ALS.

Julie Selsberg and father, Charles Selsberg, who died from ALS.

others to be forced to live through the agony her father endured from ALS before he voluntarily decided to stop eating and drinking to end his suffering.

“We are so proud that this was a campaign about the truth and transparency of medical aid in dying,” said Julie Selsberg, co-petitioner of Proposition 106. “We talked to voters about what the End-of-Life Options Act does, what it doesn’t do, who is eligible and how it works. We answered questions from individuals, reporters, editors and others community groups who really wanted to be sure this was the right thing for our state. And it is. An overwhelming majority – 65% – understand the provisions of the End-of-Life Options Act and support the right for patients, with their doctors and their families, to make those personal end-of-life decisions.”

As part of Colorado’s Access Campaign, Compassion & Choices will provide education and technical assistance to doctors, healthcare providers and terminally ill adults about all the end-of-life care options to relieve intolerable suffering, including hospice, palliative care and medical aid in dying.

The Colorado Hospital Association is among a group of healthcare groups, hospitals, medical and hospice facilities and nonprofit organizations that is  working with Compassion & Choices to ensure all Coloradans understand that medical aid in dying is a legitimate and trusted end-of-life care option.

“It is very important for doctors to understand how to respond to a terminally ill person’s request for medical aid in dying,” said Dr. David Grube, a national medical director for Compassion & Choices, who has written aid-in-dying prescriptions authorized by Oregon’s death-with-dignity law. “The doctor’s response should include assessing the patient’s mental capability to make an informed decision, reviewing the patient’s previous treatment, and offering alternatives to medical aid in dying, such as hospice and palliative care.”

Terminally ill Coloradans, their families, physicians and pharmacists can get information about the law by visiting: compassionandchoices.org/colorado or by emailing [email protected]. Information is available in English and Spanish. Physicians will be able to access Compassion & Choices’ free Doc2Doc consultation program to speak to doctors with years of experience in end-of-life care, including medical aid in dying. Pharmacists will also be able to access the Pharmacist2Pharmacist consultation program.

There is no evidence of abuse in the five other authorized states with a collective 30+ years of experience with this medical practice: Oregon (since 1998), Washington (since 2009), Montana (since 2010), Vermont (since 2013) and California (since June 2016). The District of Columbia is poised to become the seventh jurisdiction in the U.S. where medical aid in dying is authorized for terminally ill adults after the D.C Council passed the D.C. Death with Dignity Act by a veto-proof 11-2 margin.

Medical aid-in-dying advocates like Brittany Maynard, who died on Nov. 1, 2014, after moving from California to Oregon to utilize its Death with Dignity Act, inspired California, D.C. and Colorado to pass these laws and prompted lawmakers in 18 other states to introduce similar bills. Throughout the past year, several Coloradans like Julie and Matt have come forward to tell their stories to help illustrate the importance of end-of-life options.