Protect Colorado law

The big news on the health-care front is the Senate’s narrow 51-50 vote Tuesday to move forward with a debate on repealing Obamacare, even though it’s unclear what measure senators will be considering.

Colorado’s Republican Sen. Cory Gardner voted for the motion to proceed, allowing debate to continue on an issue he’s avoided addressing with constituents. Until amendments are offered to fill this shell of a bill with something to analyze, we’ll reserve judgment on whether Gardner’s action is good for Colorado.

In the meantime, this historic moment of reckoning — seven years in the making — overshadowed a recent vote by the House Appropriations Committee to repeal the District of Columbia’s Death with Dignity Law, raising some troubling questions about the fate of a similar medical-aid-in-dying law Colorado voters approved by a wide margin in November.

There are two issues at stake. The first is the federal government’s usurpation of a democratically enacted decision, which flies in the face of the Trump administration’s promise to return power to the people. The second is the basis of the federal intervention. If House members are convinced that D.C.‘s law is so bad that it warrants repeal, can a bill to ban medical aid in dying nationally be far behind?

D.C.‘s law is modeled on existing laws and safeguards in six states, including Colorado, that allow mentally capable terminally ill adults with six months to live to request medication — that would be self-administered — to bring about a peaceful death.

Colorado voters approved the Colorado End-of-Life Options Act (Proposition 106) last fall by a 30-point margin (65 percent to 35 percent). Nationally, 73 percent of Americans support medical aid in dying across the political and religious spectrum, according to a Gallup poll conducted in May.

If the House and Senate are to vote on appropriations bills before the August recess, time is short. The last day the House and Senate are tentatively scheduled to be in session before the August recess is July 28.

It would be highly hypocritical of House members and senators from the six states with medical aid in dying laws — including Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Garnder — to void this option for D.C. residents when their constituents at home have it and strongly support it.

If the repeal succeeds, we fear it will inspire opponents of medical aid in dying to seek a nationwide ban on this end-of-life care option.

The Constitution gives Congress authority over the District, which can make this issue seem like a turf war between Congress and the locally elected D.C. Council. But the implications are far-reaching.

As we brace for a bruising Senate battle over the fate of Obamacare, the vote on the repeal of D.C.‘s medical aid in dying law should be a far easier call for Bennet and Gardner. The people of Colorado have spoken and voted for the personal liberty to make their own end-of-life care decisions. Supporting a repeal of D.C.‘s law threatens that liberty.


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