Colorado lawmakers reject assisted suicide legislation

by Sarah Padbury
Posted 2/12/15, 08:45 am

A legislative committee in Colorado voted down a bill last week that would have legalized assisted suicide in the state.

The sensitive topic brought hundreds of people to the debate on Friday, filling the Capitol’s largest hearing room and the overflow room, according to The Denver Post. The committee waded through 11 hours of testimony from more than 100 people on both sides of the issue, finally rejecting the bill 8-5.

David Hibbard, 77, was a hospice physician for 15 years and now has Parkinson’s disease and leukemia. He said he knows he will one day be bed-bound and unable to talk and feed himself.

“I don’t want to endure this scenario, and I certainly don’t want to have my family, my wife, and my three children, to have to endure watching me go through this rapid deterioration,” he said.

Four states currently allow doctors to help patients end their lives: Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. New Mexico is fighting a court ruling that legalized assisted suicide earlier this year in one county. Colorado’s bill was modeled after Oregon’s law, requiring patients to get two doctors to sign off on their request to die after proving they are mentally competent to administer the life-ending medicine themselves.

Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Ft. Collins, said the bill is about ensuring “personal freedom” in the final stages of life, noting there comes a time when physicians are “no longer able to heal.”

But Rep. Jon Keyser, R-Morrison, worried Colorado could become known for “suicide tourism” if the bill passed. For another lawmaker, Rep. Dianne Primavera, D-Broomfield, the issue was personal. In a teary presentation, Primavera revealed she is a cancer survivor and recalled how a doctor told her she wouldn’t live more than five years. She got a second opinion and is still here, 28 years later.

Other opponents noted the bill had few safeguards against unethical practices, such as a family member advocating for life-ending drugs, nor did it have what some called a “sensible” age minimum.

“It’s well noted that the full frontal cortex in the brain is not fully developed in people until age 25,” said Rep. Kathleen Conti, R-Littleton. “They’re not able to take a drink legally until they're 21. Yet you have set the age in this bill at 18.”

Carrie Ann Lucas, 43, spoke on behalf of Not Dead Yet, a New York-based disability rights group. Lucas uses a wheelchair and ventilator because of a neuromuscular disease. She testified that without her ventilator, she would have only hours to live. And, she said, if she became depressed, she thinks she could go to a doctor who doesn’t know her well to get the drugs.

“They probably would give me that lethal prescription instead of referring me to mental-health treatment that I would so desperately need,” Lucas said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Sarah Padbury

Sarah is a writer, editor, and adoption advocate. She is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Sarah and her husband live with their six teenagers in Castle Rock, Colo.

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