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The Colorado End-of-Life Options Act

The Act authorizes the medical practice of aid in dying. Medical Aid in dying (also known as death with dignity) is a safe and trusted medical practice because of the eligibility requirements.  Medical aid in dying allows a terminally ill, mentally capable adult who has a prognosis of six months or less to live to obtain and - if- his or her suffering become unbearable - self-administer medication that brings about a peaceful death.  Eligibility requirements are the same if the adult requests physicians to administer aid in dying medication.   

The Colorado End-of-Life Options Act has the same eligibility criteria as Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, in effect since 1997. To be eligible for aid in dying, the person must meeting the following criteria:
  • Must be a Colorado resident, must be an adult, age 18 or older;
  • Must be able to make and communicate an informed decision to health care providers;
  • Must have a terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less to live (terminally ill) that has been confirmed by two physicians, including the individual's primary physician and a second, consulting physician;
  • Must be determined mentally capable by two physicians, who have concluded that the individual understands the consequences of his or her decision and is free from undue influence or coercion;
  • Must be fully informed of all their decisions for care, including pain management, palliative care, hospice and comfort care;
  • Must voluntarily express his or her wish to receive the medication;
  • Two witnesses must sign the request form confirming that the person is mentally capable and the request is voluntary;
  • Must be able to take the medication themselves;
  • The physician(s) must offer the person multiple opportunities to take back the request for aid in dying medication;
  • Wills, contracts, insurance and annuity policies are not affected by a person choosing aid in dying;

The Act was designed to allow physicians, nurses and pharmacists to refuse to offer medical aid in dying and allow health systems to refuse to perform medical aid in dying on their properties.

No one is obliged to prescribe aid-in-dying medication or to witness a death where aid in dying is chosen, and a health care facility may prohibit a physician from writing a prescription for a resident of the facility who intends to use aid-in-dying medication on a facilities' premises. The attending and consulting physician must refer the individual to a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist if either one believes the individual may not be mentally capable of making an informed decision. In this case, the attending physician may not write a prescription unless the psychiatrist or psychologist communicates in writing, that the individual is mentally capable and making an informed request. All doctors who prescribe lethal drugs and all pharmacists who fill these medications are required to report to the state. Health providers and facilities are not required to prescribe or dispense aid-in-dying medication. Proposition 106 criminalized coercing a patient with a terminal illness to request aid in dying drugs. The law requires that the person in custody of an unused aid in dying medication must dispose of it safely and in accordance with Federal take-back programs.

The Act grants criminal immunity from civil and criminal liability and from professional discipline to a person who participates in good faith under the Act. The law also specifies that actions taken in accordance with the ACT do not constitute suicide, assisted suicide, euthanasia, mercy killing, homicide or elder abuse.
Prior to the approval of Proposition 106, aiding another person in ending his or her life was a crime of felony manslaughter in Colorado.
Medical aid in dying is currently authorizes in five states, either through statute or court decision: Oregon (1994, ballot initiative), Washington (2008, ballot initiative), Montana (29, state Supreme Court decision), Vermont (2003, legislation) and California (2005, Legislation).
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