Colorado Medical Aid-in-Dying Law Working Well on 1st Anniversary Since it Took EffectLeave a Comment
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.”
- We estimate 45-55 terminally ill adults have requested prescriptions for medical aid in dying based on inquiries to Compassion & Choices’ Doc2Doc service (800.247.7421 or [email protected]), our End-of-Life Consultation program and information that supporters and providers have shared. The exact number will be available when the state releases its annual report in the spring of 2018.
- Nearly 300 Coloradans have accessed Compassion & Choices’ Find Care Tool, where the public can find medical facilities, systems and hospices with policies supportive of patient decision-making around medical aid in dying.
- 81 healthcare facilities in 30 towns* and 16 hospice locations in 15 towns** statewide, including all of the large secular healthcare systems, including Kaiser, the University system and HealthOne, have adopted official policies supportive of patient end-of-life decision making and are on our online Find Care Tool: compassionandchoices.org/Find-Care.There also is a map of these facilities available at: bit.ly/COEndofLifeOptionsFriendlyFacilities.
- 10,000 doctors, pharmacists and other people have visited Compassion & Choices’ dedicated bilingual Access Campaign website to learn about more about Colorado law: compassionandchoices.org/Colorado.
- More than 500 doctors and healthcare professionals have received education and information on our online resource guide for medical providers.
- Compassion & Choices has educated hundreds of doctors and medical professionals about the law via statewide education webinars and presentations, and via our toll-free Doc2Doc consultation program phone line: 800.247.7421.
- Compassion & Choices staff and volunteers have provided free education and presentations for communities across the state since implementation. These presentations have empowered Coloradans to take charge of their healthcare and learn the process for accessing the full range of end-of-life options, including medical aid in dying.
“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.