25 Feb End of Life Options bill pulled before Colorado House debate
Colorado’s physician-assisted suicide bill, the proposed End of Life Options Act, faced long odds a long time before Wednesday morning, but it was a rare move for House Democrats to move it off the calendar before any floor debate.Democrats didn’t have the votes to pass it, so the bill’s sponsors chose not to put fellow legislators torn over the issue — with their own consciences, as well as their November voters — in a position to have to take a position.
The sponsors of House Bill 1054, Reps. Joann Ginal and Lois Court, admonished lawmakers.
“I am profoundly disappointed we have gotten to this point,” Court said on the House floor. “And I am profoundly disappointed in you, colleagues, because you have disappointed 65 percent of your constituents. Sixty-five percent of Coloradans want this. This is a deeply personal decision, and we are denying the 65 percent of Coloradans who wanted the opportunity to make this decision.”
A Talmey-Drake poll last year indicated 68 percent support for a right-to-die law in Colorado.
“The choice we made today was to give you the relief from having to have this conversation, because we know many of you have deeply held convictions that make you uncomfortable with this bill, so we are doing you this favor to not have this debate,” Court continued. “But make no mistake, the voice of the people of this state will be held. You will hear from your constituents one way or the other.”
Her voice cracked with emotion as she talked about the people who are in a position to make the end-of-life decision.
Ginal talked about the slow, painful death of her brother to a rare blood cancer last year.
“I proudly sponsored this bill because I believe in taking the government out of personal choice,” Ginal said. “Me and the majority of Colorado voters want every option, God forbid, if we ever have to face a terminal illness.
“Terminal illness does not discriminate. It does not matter if you’re Democrat or Republican. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, if you’re young or if you’re old.”
The state Senate rejected a similar bill on Feb. 3.
A state House committee voted down a physician-assisted suicide billlast year.
Court said she and Ginal would continue the fight.
The news did not surprise proponents of the bill. Within minutes after the bill was shelved, the nonprofit Compassion & Choices issued a press release to say the fight is “far from over.”
Here is the text of that statement:
Supporters Slam Lawmakers for Inaction, Vow to Make Aid in Dying an Option for Terminally Ill Coloradans
Colorado Legislators Failed Their Constituents
(Denver, Colorado – Feb 24, 2016) Despite the Colorado legislature’s inaction on the Colorado End of Life Options Act, advocates for the legislation say the battle to give terminally ill Coloradans the option of medical aid in dying is far from over.
“Compassion & Choices and our tireless advocates will not rest until we make medical aid in dying an option for terminally ill adults in Colorado,” said Compassion & Choices Cultivation Manager Roland Halpern.
On Tuesday, HB16-1054, the End of Life Options Act was laid over indefinitely in the Colorado House floor. House Sponsors Representative Joann Ginal (HD- 52) and Representative Lois Court (HD-6) spoke Wednesday morning, to express their commitment to continuing to educate their constituents and their colleagues.
The Colorado End of Life Options Act is closely modeled after the Death With Dignity Act in Oregon, which has worked well for 17 years, without a single documented case of abuse or coercion. California recently became the 5th state to authorize this option of medical aid in dying, and the 2nd state after Vermont in 2013 to do it via the legislature. The other three states that authorize this end-of-life option are Oregon (via referendum in 1994), Washington (via referendum in 2008) and Montana (via state Supreme Court decision in 2009). More than half the states in the country have considered similar legislation in the past year.
Coloradans from across the state came to the Capitol to testify in support of The Colorado End of Life Options Act, which would allow mentally capable, terminally ill adults the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication that they could take if their suffering becomes unbearable, to painlessly and peacefully die in their sleep.
“Today, Colorado’s elected representatives ignored the sincere and well-considered wishes of their constituents,” said Compassion & Choices President, Barbara Coombs Lee. “Their inaction means more painful, agonized deaths when aid in dying could have given comfort, and more grief for families who witness needless suffering.” Coombs Lee added, “we know that Coloradans overwhelmingly want access to aid in dying, and Compassion & Choices is committed to giving them that option as soon as possible.”
Dan Diaz, who was in Colorado earlier this year to meet one on one with legislators and share his story and the story of his beloved late wife Brittany Maynard. Maynard had terminal brain cancer and moved from California to Oregon in 2014 to access that state’s Death with Dignity Act. Diaz said, “As a Catholic, I believe it is not for me to judge someone else’s decision regarding their own end of life. I respect those who might make a different decision if they were in Brittany’s shoes, so I don’t understand why they do not extend the same respect to those of us, and the 68% of Coloradan’s, that agree with Brittany and support End-of-Life Options for terminally ill individuals.”
Source: The Denver Post