Colorado Voters Approve Physician-Assisted Suicide

November 9, 2016
Gale Scott

By a wide margin, Colorado voters approved a measure to legalize physician-assisted suicide.

Colorado voters have approved a proposal that would allow physicians to prescribe lethal doses of medication to be taken by a terminally ill adult patient.

The state is now the sixth to have laws permitting physician-assisted suicide. The others are California, Vermont, Oregon, Washington, and Montana.

The measure, known as Proposition 106, was approved by a wide margin, with 65% of voters saying yes and 35% no.

A spokeswoman for a pro-physician suicide organization, Compassion and Choices said "It's up to providers now to make it accessible," speaking in a televised interview.

The law is modeled after Oregon's Death with Dignity Act.

It calls for two physicians to certify that the patient has six months or less to live, is mentally competent to make the decision and physically capable of self-administering the drugs.

The patient has to be a state resident, has to have had all "feasible end-of-life services" such as pain control and palliative care.

The patient needs to be referred for counseling first only if he or she is depressed or mentally ill.

While often popular with the public, such measures are controversial to medical organizations.

Last year, in an unsuccessful bid to prevent California from enacting its statute, the American College of Physician’s President Way Riley, MD, wrote to the state’s governor saying “It is not the role of the physician to give individuals control over the cause and timing of death—the medicalization of suicide’ and that doing so “undermines trust.”

CORRECTION:Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article misstated the Colorado medical society's position on the proposal. A spokeswoman for the group said that "out of respect for the strongly held divergent, principled views of our colleagues regarding end-of-life assistance as proposed in Proposition 106," the board of directors of the Colorado Medical Society voted to take a neutral stance. "This was a move from a position of opposition to one of neutrality," she wrote in an email.

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