The Colorado End-of-Life Options Act legalizes for state residents the medical practice of assistance in dying. Medical aid in dying (also known as death with dignity) allows a terminally ill, mentally capable person with a prognosis of six months or less to live, the right to request, obtain and — if his or her suffering becomes unbearable — self-administer medication that brings about a peaceful death.
Proposition 106 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 meet the following criteria:
• The person must be an adult
• The person must be terminally ill, with six months or less to live
• The person must be mentally capable of making his/her own healthcare decisions
• The person must be fully informed of all their options for care, including pain management, palliative care, hospice and comfort care
• Two physicians must determine the person has no mental condition impairing the ability to make decisions and is free from undue influence or coercion
• The person must be able to self-administer the medication
• The person must be a Colorado resident
• The physician must offer the person multiple opportunities to take back the request for aid in dying medication
• Two witnesses must sign the request form confirming that the person is mentally capable and the request is voluntary
• Wills, contracts, insurance and annuity policies are not affected by a person choosing aid in dying
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.
The ballot measure grants 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.
No one is obligated 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 the facility's premises.
Disposal of unused medication
The law requires that the person in custody of any unused aid in dying medication must dispose of it safely and in accordance with Federal take-back programs.
Medical aid in dying is currently authorized in five states, through statute or court decision:
Oregon (1994, ballot initiative); Washington (2008, ballot initiative); Montana (2009, state Supreme Court decision); Vermont (2013, legislation); California (2015, legislation)