Efforts to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Colorado move from the legislature to the ballot box in November.
Proposition 106, also called the “End of Life Options Act,” comes on the tail of two failed attempts to pass a similar bill through the state legislature in 2015 and 2016.
Despite those defeats, an aggressive campaign, deep-pocketed backers, and a libertarian-leaning electorate point toward success this time. A September poll found 70 percent of Colorado voters plan to support the measure, compared to just 20 percent who said they oppose it.
Proposition 106 would allow terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the right to access a physician-prescribed lethal drug. The law requires two physicians to confirm the diagnosis and determine the patient is mentally capable. The patient would then self-administer the drug, usually a lethal dose of a sleeping medication called secobarbital. Under the law, the death certificate would list the disease, not the lethal drug, as the cause of death.
Although supporters claim a “yes” vote on Nov. 8 is a vote for “compassion,” critics argue that beyond being morally wrong, the law is fundamentally flawed and opens the door to abuse.
The law does not require a doctor to be present when the drug is administered, or require any reporting of what happens to the drug once it is prescribed. Critics argue the measure also could encourage “doctor shopping” until patients find two doctors willing to agree on a prognosis that gives them access to physician-assisted suicide. And although a doctor must attest to a patient’s mental competence, the law does not require a mental health exam by a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist.
Citing similar concerns, The Denver Post editorial board, which endorsed the physician-assisted suicide bill in 2015, did an about-face on Tuesday and published an editorial urging a “no” vote on Proposition 106.
“Those facing their final months are in a vulnerable place, a time when an individual is susceptible to pressures both subtle and overt, susceptible to self-imposed guilt over burdening family and worries about spending hard-earned savings on care,” the editorial board wrote. “Such patients also are susceptible to depression and its dark influences on decision-making.”
Along with concerns about a lack of reporting once the medication is dispensed, the editorial noted the law “would entice insurers to drop expensive treatments for terminal patients even when medical advances might add months or years more to a life that a patient may wish to take.”
The main organization backing Proposition 106 is Denver-based Compassion and Choices, the largest assisted-suicide advocacy group in the nation. It has raised $4.5 million from undisclosed donors in support of the initiative.
John Andrews, a former state Senate president and former vice president of Colorado Christian University, filed a campaign finance complaint in late September on behalf of opposition group No Assisted Suicide Colorado. The complaint accuses the Compassion and Choices Action Network of failing to register as an issue committee and disclose its donors. Some observers suspect billionaire George Soros is one of the campaign’s major backers.
Compassion and Choices has another reason for its heavy investment in Colorado, said Carrie Gordon Earll, vice president for government and public policy at Focus on the Family. It is “looking at Colorado as a bellwether state” for other initiatives. Compassion and Choices hopes to use a ballot victory in Colorado after two failed legislative attempts as a launch pad for other states where bills have failed in the legislature, according to Earll. The group is pushing physician-assisted suicide legislation in 20 other states.
“They are serious, they are well-funded, and they are pedaling death to a generation of Americans who deserve better than this,” she said.
Courtesy: WORLD News Service
Publication date: October 14, 2016