Should you have a say in how you die? The topic is at the core of a bill proposed in Colorado aiming to assist dying patients in ending their lives, a bill the state's lawmakers have now rejected.
After hearing about 10 hours of testimony from over 100 people, the Colorado legislative committee voted 8-5 not in favor of the right-to-die bill, concluding a highly emotional discussion on legalizing assisted suicide. Testimony poured in from both those for and against the bill, with doctors, clergy, the sick, the disabled and their family making their cases.
"This bill represents a very personal freedom that for some is taken away in the final stages of their illness. Physicians give patients the best possible care. But there comes a time when a physician is no longer able to heal," explained Democratic Rep. Joann Ginal, one of the sponsors of the bill.
Concerns were raised, however, about safeguards that would prevent the bill from being abused. In particular, there is worry that health insurance providers would push patients to opt for the assisted suicide option, letting them cut back on payments as lethal drugs are cheaper than the medications and other treatments that serious diseases require. Many are also wary patients may be coerced into opting for assisted suicide by parties looking to benefit from their death.
The sick were also divided, offering arguments for each side; so were doctors who said that the bill closed dying patients from the possibility of recovering since there is a chance that a prognosis is wrong.
According to the proposal, a patient will need two doctors to sign off on written and verbal requests to help them die. The patient making the request must also be of sound mental capacity and must be able to take the lethal prescription themselves. There must also be a six-month period until the time of their projected death.
The bill is patterned after what Oregon has been following for the past 16 years. Aside from Oregon, similar legislation is found in New Mexico, Vermont, Montana and Washington.
A girl from California moved to Oregon in 2014 to take advantage of the latter's right-to-die law. Brittany Maynard was a 29-year-old diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She died on Nov. 1. Her case sparked anew a debate last year about terminal patients and their right to die, a debate that has been shot down in Colorado for now.