- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 8, 2016

DENVER (AP) - Colorado on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a proposition to allow terminally ill people to end their own lives, becoming the fifth state to allow medically assisted suicide.

Proposition 106 requires that a mentally competent patient have a six-month prognosis and get two doctors to approve requests for life-ending medication. It requires doctors to discuss alternatives with the patient as well as safe storage, tracking and disposal of lethal drugs, recognizing that a patient can change his or her mind.

Proponents sought a statutory law rather than a constitutional amendment on Tuesday’s ballot so lawmakers can make any necessary adjustments. They also went to the voters after legislative supporters, including Democratic Rep. Lois Court of Denver, could not muster enough Democratic or Republican votes to pass a measure.

Oregon, Washington, Vermont and California also offer medically assisted suicide. Montana’s state Supreme Court has ruled that doctors can use a patient’s request for life-ending medication as a defense against any criminal charges linked to the death.

Opponents, including the Roman Catholic and Mormon churches, argued that the proposal would facilitate doctor-assisted suicide, especially after mistaken terminal diagnoses. Oregon, the first state to adopt such a law in 1997, has no such documented cases.

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and others insisted that existing hospice and palliative care for the dying is sufficient. They worried about the influence family can have on patients’ decision-making, and the consequences for disabled patients suffering depression, among other issues.

In Oregon, an estimated one-third of patients who requested life-ending drugs never used them, according to Compassion and Choices, which lobbied for the measure.

A terminally ill patient in Colorado must be able to administer the drugs on their own, and doctors must report annually to the state about each case in which life-ending drugs are prescribed.

Supporters raised more than $5 million, most it from the Compassion and Choices Action Network. Opponents raised more than $2.3 million with contributions from Catholic archdioceses in Denver, St. Louis and Arlington, Virginia.

Compassion and Choices president Barbara Coombs called the vote “an especially tremendous victory for terminally ill adults who worry about horrific suffering in their final days.”

Voters across a broad demographic range supported Proposition 106, according to preliminary results of an exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and television networks.

Among voters who responded, both men and women, Hispanics and whites and people with and without college degrees said they backed the proposal. Support from voters age 18-44 as wells as those 45 and older was strong, with about six in 10 saying they favored it.

The telephone survey of 1,383 Colorado voters was conducted by Edison Research from Oct. 28 through Nov. 6. Results for the full sample were subject to a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.


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