Assisted Suicide Heads to Colorado

By: Tyler Cosmer

While the outcome of our recent election cycle have represented a country with polarized viewpoints of America’s future policies, one ballot initiative has emerged as a force of consensus. Voters in Colorado overwhelmingly passed Proposition 106 with a clear 64.6% in favor to 35.4% not in favor.[1]  Proposition 106, more commonly known as the “End of Life Options Act,” now gives eligibility for self-administered aid-in-dying medication to terminally ill Coloradans, provided they only have six months or less to live and that they are mentally competent.[2]  Colorado is now the sixth in the United States to sanction physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill citizens, joining Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, and Vermont.[3]  This vote is pivotal for Colorado, marking the latest opportunity for public reflection and debate centered upon how we think about the end of life.

Medical error is the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer.[11] Opponents to Proposition 106 cite the possible scenario in which an individual is given access to end of life medication, and prematurely ends their life when they might have been able to overcome their prognosis.  Yet, as access to physician-assisted suicide continues to grow, richer data sets regarding impacts of the practice have become available. A 2007 inquiry on how physician-assisted suicide impacts vulnerable populations found no evidence of heightened risks in end of life decision-making in Oregon and in the Netherlands.[12]  

Proposition 106 borrows heavily upon Oregon’s pioneering Death with Dignity Act of 1997.[4]  Similar to Oregon’s Act, Colorado’s version indicates that the request to receive life-ending medication must be the sole initiative of the patient.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.