Our view: Compassion for the terminally ill

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Voters have the opportunity this election cycle to show more compassion for the terminally ill and approve Proposition 106. The measure would allow “mentally capable” Colorado residents confronted with a physician’s diagnosis that they have six months or fewer to live due to terminal illness, to ask their doctor for a prescription that would allow them to end their own lives with less pain and their dignity intact. If approved, the new law would require self-administration of the prescription.

At issue:

Ballot proposition 106 – Access to Aid-in-Dying Medication

Our view

We do it for our pets — why don’t we allow our parents and grandparents the option of enduring less pain as they leave this life?

Editorial Board: October 2016 through January 2017

  • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
  • Lisa Schlichtman, editor
  • Jim Patterson, evening editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Jason Peasley, community representative
  • Todd Hagenbuch, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com.

Should this ballot measure be approved by the voters, Colorado would not be the first in the nation to approve of an end-of-life options law.

Initiatives or legislation allowing physicians to prescribe aid-in-dying medication have passed in the states of Washington, Montana, Vermont and California. It was the state of Oregon — which passed such legislation in 1994 — which has the longest experience with this issue. Colorado’s proposition 106 isn’t identical to the Oregon law, but it is closely modeled on it.

Oregon’s original law passed very narrowly in 1994, but several years later, when another voter initiative seeking to reverse the Oregon law was placed on the ballot, the state’s voters rejected it by a 20 percent margin.

The Colorado Legislature failed to pass similar bills in 1995, 1996, 2015 and 2016.

We are not unaware that this ballot question raises concerns for many people who are devoted to “the sanctity of life.” But that is their choice. And others should be free, when confronted with their own impending death, to make their own choice within the ample safeguards provided in Proposition 106.

Further, it is not our intent in any way to be dismissive of patients’ viable options of entering hospice, seeking palliative care and consulting their physician about pain management strategies that are the choice so many people. Steamboat Springs is blessed with a caring hospice facility.

It’s significant that Proposition 106, if approved, would not amend the state’s constitution, which would make it difficult to alter the terms of end-of-life prescriptions in the case of unintended consequences. Instead it would create a new state law. Current statutes provide that the legislature needs only a simple majority to revisit the law in order to repeal an or amend it.

Important aspects of Proposition 106 that are important to know include the following.

• Proposition 106 contains detailed criteria for ensuring the patient is a resident of Colorado. The intent is to deter an influx of people from outside the state seeking to end their lives under the law. Patients seeking a prescription from their physician must be able to show: a Colorado driver’s license or ID card or a Colorado voter registration card or a Colorado tax return from the prior year. They may also qualify by offering evidence they own or lease property in the state.

• Terminally ill patients must make two oral requests, separated by at least 15 days, as well as submit a signed, dated written request to their attending physician, witnessed by at least two people, who, in their presence, attest that, to the best of their knowledge, the patient was mentally capable, acting voluntarily and not being coerced. One of the two witnesses must not be related to the individual and must not be a person entitled under a will or by legal means to a portion of the patient’s estate. Nor can they be an owner, operator or employee of the health care facility at which the person is receiving treatment.

• The attending physician must confirm that the person’s request is not the result of coercion or undue influence by another person.

• Significantly, the law provides that a person’s act of self-administering medical aid-in-dying medication does not affect a life, health or accident insurance or annuity policy.

We sincerely believe it’s time for Colorado to take this poignant and compassionate step forward in the matter of life and death.

Comments

Bradley Williams 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Correction please: Your source has done you a disservice. The promoters of assisted suicide have worn out their thesaurus attempting to imply that it is legal in Montana. Assisted suicide is a homicide in Montana. Our MT Supreme Court did ruled that if a doctor is charged with a homicide they might have a potential defense based on consent. The MT Supreme Court acknowledged it is a homicide in the ruling.

The Court did not address civil liabilities and they vacated the lower court’s claim that it was a constitutional right. Unlike Oregon no one in Montana has immunity from civil or criminal prosecution, death certificates are not legally falsified and investigations are not prohibited like in OR, WA and CA. Does that sound legal to you?

Perhaps the promoters are frustrated that even though they were the largest lobbying spender in Montana their Oregon model legalizing assisted suicide bills have been rejected in Montana in 2011, 2013 and 2015.

Your source has done the public a disservice. Their ordinary bait and switch campaign is demonstrated by their selling "must self-administer" then they do not provide in their legislation for an ordinary witness of the "self-administration". The difference is that a witness would honor individual rights and choices, without a witness it allows euthanasia. If the individual changed their mind no one would ever know. And we know that 30% do change their mind according to Oregon's records This omission eviscerates the flaunted safeguards putting the entire population at risk of exploitation by the medical-industrial-complex, organ traffickers and predatory heirs.
Respectfully submitted, Bradley Williams President Mtaas dot org

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