End-of-Life Options ballot measure gets 160,000 signatures

The main group trying to get a proposed ballot measure to bring Oregon’s Death With Dignity law to Colorado turned in more than 160,000 signatures Thursday to the Secretary of State’s Office.

That group, Yes on Colorado End-of-Life Options, said Colorado would be only the sixth state to approve such a law if voters here approve it. Only 98,492 of those signatures need to be of registered Colorado voters to get the measure onto the November ballot.

“For most people, pain management and palliative care work just fine, but there is a small population whose suffering is not alleviated by these measures,” said Julie Selsberg, who helped get the petitions signed. “My father wanted this option, and now we’ve heard from thousands of Coloradans who want this option, too. It is just that, an option for those who qualify and who seek it.”

Colorado’s version of the law, which is being referred to as an “aid-in-dying” law,” is virtually identical to the Oregon law that was enacted in 1997.

Under it, patients who have been diagnosed as being terminally ill with less than six months to live and have a determination from at least two physicians that they have no mental condition impairing their ability to make decisions would be able to get medications to end their lives.

In addition to that, the patients must be able to take the medications themselves, and two witnesses must sign a patient’s written request for the medication certifying that the patient is mentally capable and is not being coerced.

According to a 2015 data summary complied by the Oregon Public Health Division in February, the law there has been successful, and has shown to not have been abused or wrongly utilized.

That summary said that since the law was enacted, not everyone who received the life-ending medication actually used it.

Since 1998, 1,545 people have received the prescriptions in the state, but only 991 used it. Use of the law in Oregon has steadily increased over the years, according to the study. In 2015, 218 people received the medication, but only 132 used it.

The issue committee backing the measure, Compassion and Choices Action Network-Colorado, is part of a well-funded national group that has been pushing the issue in states nationwide.

As a result, that committee has collected more than $4 million for the effort, giving a chunk of it — $3.7 million — to the Yes on Colorado group.

Meanwhile, the opposition group, Coloradans Against Assisted Suicide, formed its committee just this week and has not collected any donations.


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