Our view: Compassion for the terminally ill | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Compassion for the terminally ill

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?

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?

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.

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