Proposition 106, medical aid in dying, passes in Colorado

Terminally ill patients in Colorado will soon be able to ask their doctor to prescribe a lethal dose of barbiturates and choose when to die.

With almost 47 percent of the estimated votes counted from 34 of Colorado’s 64 counties, 65.3 percent of voters supported Proposition 106 and 34.7 percent opposed it.

Helping someone take their own life has been considered manslaughter under Colorado law, but that will change in the case of people who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

The Catholic Church and advocates for people with disabilities had opposed this measure.

Here’s how it would work:

To use this option, a person would need to be a Colorado resident aged 18 or older, be able to make an informed health care decision and communicate it to providers and have a terminal illness with a prognosis of six months to live or less.

The drugs would be a strong dose of barbiturates, and the person would have to be able to administer the drugs themselves.

The person would have to voluntarily express their wish to receive medication to end their life — first as two separate oral requests at least 15 days apart and then again in written form. The written request must be witnessed by two people, and at least one of them may not be a family member or heir or an employee or operator of a facility where the person resides. That is, it must be someone who would not have any potential interest in encouraging the person to end their life prematurely. The person’s primary care physician or the person who has power of attorney cannot be one of the witnesses either.

The person would also have to be deemed mentally capable by two physicians.

The death certificate for people who use medication to end their life under this program would list the underlying illness as the cause of death, and their deaths would not automatically be investigated by the coroner’s office.

The measure makes it a felony to tamper with someone’s decision or coerce them in any way. The measure also explicitly allows doctors to opt out of participating.

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.