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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Swan

Aid-in-Dying: What Does It Mean for Colorado?

In more than twenty years since the Death with Dignity law came into effect in Oregon, there have been less than 1,000 people who took the medication, and there has not been a single reported case of abuse.

While this remains a controversial topic, Colorado passed the Aid-in-Dying law this year, and at Swan Law, where we help our clients with advanced care planning, we think it’s important to be informed.

Perhaps you have read the story of Brittany Maynard, who was twenty-nine years old when she was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor.  Young and otherwise healthy, she was suffering debilitating headaches and after a partial craniotomy, she worried about losing her entire quality of life.  She feared the personality changes and the pain that would accompany her end-of-life experience.

Ms. Maynard moved from California to Oregon in 2014, where she could have the choice to end her life with dignity and to say goodbye to her loved ones on her own terms.  She had only been married a year; she did not want to die.  Knowing, however, what was ahead for her quality of life, for the pain she might suffer, she wanted to at least have the choice.

In the last several years, other states have joined Oregon to give people with terminal illnesses this choice.  Proposition 106 passed in Colorado last year, and people in Colorado now have the choice as well.   They must meet several requirements for the medication, typically Secobarbital, which allows the patient to fall asleep peacefully.

Colorado residents must be at least 18 years of age and diagnosed with a terminal illness by two physicians, with a prognosis of less than six months to live.  Neither age nor disability constitutes a basis for qualification.

They must request the medication two separate times with a fifteen day period between them, and a third request is made in front of two witnesses.

Two physicians must agree that a patient is eligible, and if one can’t make the determination, a mental health professional must make the evaluation.  The patient must also be educated on other end-of-life options.  They must self-administer the drug; no one else may participate in helping the patient take the drug.

Colorado has a long history of supporting patients’ rights to make health care decisions.  Beginning in 1985, more than thirty years ago, Colorado has continued to pass legislation that opens the conversation to discuss your end-of-life options.  The Aid in Dying Law is one more choice the law affords you, and it’s another opportunity to discuss your care with the people you love, so they know how you want to be taken care of in the future.

Aid in dying remains a highly personal decision.  If you have not made your end-of-life directives clear for your family, Swan Law offers complete health care documents as part of our estate plans.  Call Jamie at 970-879-1572 to schedule today.

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