Attempt to Undermine Colorado Law Thwarted

April 13, 2017

CO-legislative-day-feb-2017-150x150Because a single lawmaker did not agree with it – although a strong majority in his district voted in favor – Colorado’s recently passed medical aid-in-dying law was nearly rendered inaccessible to residents. Using the budget process, Senator Kevin Lundberg (Dist. 15) cut the funding required by the state to collect data for the Colorado Department of Health to show how the law is working, stating he could not vote for taxpayer dollars to pay for something he found so “morally offensive.”

In response, Senator Lois Court (Dist. 31) introduced an amendment to restore the $44,000 in funding for the End-of-Life Option Act’s annual reporting. She then called on Compassion & Choices to rally our grassroots supporters in the state, who launched in to action. Over 250 Coloradans contacted their senators, urging them to vote for the important amendment.

On April 19 we received reports from lawmakers in both parties that their offices were inundated with calls, and that same day, the Department of Health held a hearing on its final administrative rules for the End-of-Life Options Act. Thanks to Senator Court’s commitment to the issue and the urging of C&C supporters, the amendment passed by a close 18-17, restoring funding for the required annual reporting.

Colorado is only one recent example of how once a medical aid-in-dying law passes, the work to keep it viable does not end. Also this month, Compassion & Choices and Patient Choices Vermont praised a federal judge’s ruling to dismiss a lawsuit brought by religious groups seeking to undermine Vermont’s Patient Choice at End of Life Act, in effect since 2013.

The Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and Tennessee-based Christian Medical and Dental Association filed the suit last July against the State of Vermont. The groups claimed Patient’s Bill of Rights for Palliative Care and Pain Management violated their religious rights by requiring doctors to discuss all end-of-life care options with their patients.

In December, U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford granted a motion by Compassion & Choices, Patient Choices Vermont and two terminally ill Vermonters, Monica van de Ven and Benedict Underhill, to intervene in the case, allowing them to become a party to the lawsuit. David Bassett, Samantak Ghosh, Nina Garcia and Stephanie Neely of WilmerHale, and Ron Shems of Diamond & Robinson were co-counsel on behalf of intervenors.

On April 5, Judge Crawford dismissed the case. His ruling concluded that two Vermont laws, the Patient’s Bill of Rights for Palliative Care and Pain Management and Limitation of Medical Malpractice Action Based on Lack of Informed Consent, “continue to govern physicians in all aspects of their care of the terminally ill. Under these provisions, physicians must inform patients about all choices and options relevant to their medical treatment.”

“This federal ruling is important because it underscores the importance of putting complete information in the hands of patients so they can make informed decisions consistent with their values,” said Kevin Díaz, national director of legal advocacy for Compassion & Choices.“


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