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Report: Medical Aid-in-Dying Law Works as Intended for Terminally Ill Coloradans

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Medical aid-in-dying is currently available to more than one in five Americans. It is authorized in nine states, including Colorado, and the District of Columbia. (Pixabay)
Medical aid-in-dying is currently available to more than one in five Americans. It is authorized in nine states, including Colorado, and the District of Columbia. (Pixabay)
 By Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO - Producer, Contact
February 25, 2021

DENVER -- A new report suggests Colorado's medical aid-in-dying law, passed in 2016, is working as intended, by helping qualified terminally ill residents end their suffering.

Sam DeWitt, southwest regional campaign and outreach manager for the group Compassion & Choices, noted data collected by the state's Department of Public Health and Environment shows more physicians are making terminally ill Coloradans aware of their end-of-life options.

He added many patients report just having the prescription gives them peace of mind.

"So much of the life of a terminally ill person comes down to the daily pain and the unknown," DeWitt observed. "And having just that one item that they control, they know when they get to take it, is extremely empowering."

Last year, 188 Coloradans requested prescriptions for aid-in-dying medications, a 10% increase over the previous year, and 145 went on to obtain the medication.

The number of physicians writing prescriptions increased by 22%, rising from 130 to 159.

Joanne Kelly's husband, Alan Kelly, suffered from multiple system atrophy, a rare and fatal neurodegenerative disease.

After accessing a prescription through Kaiser Permanente, he died at home on Jan. 11 last year.

Kelly said she was pleased her husband could die how he wanted.

"His daughters were here, and his granddaughters, and me," Kelly recounted. "And he died exactly the way he wanted to die: at home, surrounded by people who loved him. And it was very tender and very sweet."

More than 60% of Coloradans who received prescriptions faced a terminal cancer prognosis, followed by progressive neurological disorders, and terminal cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

The End of Life Options Act authorizes mentally fit adults with six months or less to live the option to request medication they can choose to take if their suffering becomes unbearable.

Disclosure: Compassion & Choices contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Health Issues, Senior Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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