Colorado Governor Signs Law Making Access to Medical Aid in Dying More Equitable for Terminally Ill Adults

Signing Marks the 7th Improvement of Medical Aid-in-Dying Laws Nationwide in 5 Years
June 6, 2024

Compassion & Choices, alongside advocates and clinicians, praised Colorado Governor Jared Polis for signing legislation (SB24-068) Wednesday to significantly improve access to medical aid in dying for terminally ill patients. 

The Colorado End-of-Life Options Act, originally enacted into law via a ballot initiative with 65% voter support in 2016, gives terminally ill, mentally capable adults with six months or less to live the option to obtain and self-ingest medication to gently end their unbearable suffering. 

The updated law, which goes into effect on Aug. 7, improves access to medical aid in dying by: 

  • Reducing the mandatory minimum waiting period between oral requests from 15 days to seven days
  • Allowing the prescribing provider to waive the waiting period if the patient is not likely to survive more than 48 hours and meets all other qualifications
  • Allowing qualified advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) with prescriptive authority to act as attending and consulting providers 

“We thank Gov. Polis and Colorado lawmakers for reviewing the evidence, listening to their constituents, and taking action to ensure that eligible Coloradans have access to medical aid in dying,” said Kim Callinan, president and CEO of Compassion & Choices. “Colorado lawmakers join California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington in ensuring their medical aid-in-dying law eliminates unnecessary barriers while maintaining needed safeguards. Colorado implemented improvements similar to those in other states, including allowing advanced practice registered nurses with prescribing authority to support patients interested in this option, reducing excessive waiting periods, and allowing prescribing providers to waive the waiting period if the patient is not likely to survive it.” 

Centennial, Colo. resident Meghan Reese passionately advocated for improvements to Colorado’s law after her mother decided she wanted the option of medical aid in dying to gently end her suffering from late-stage ovarian cancer, but was unable to access it despite being fully eligible under the guidelines of the law. 

“The stress this burdensome process put on my mom and our family in 2022 is indescribable,” said Reese. “I am grateful for these crucial changes, which will help ensure that no eligible, dying Coloradans suffer the way my mother did, or are unable to die on their own terms as authorized by our state’s law.”

Jacob Shannon with his late mother Lynda Shannon Bluestein (left) and Meghan Reese with her late mother Kathleen McDaniel (right).

Jacob Shannon with his late mother Lynda Shannon Bluestein (left) and Meghan Reese with her late mother Kathleen McDaniel (right).

Centennial, Colo. resident Jacob Shannon’s mother Lynda Shannon Bluestein used Vermont’s medical aid-in-dying law, updated in 2022 to eliminate the additional 48-hour waiting period at the end of the process before a patient can receive the prescription, to peacefully end her suffering from cancer in January. Shannon passionately spoke to numerous Colorado media outlets and testified at hearings about the need for updates to Colorado’s law. 

“I’m so grateful that our lawmakers exercised compassion by approving these necessary updates to make Colorado’s medical aid-in-dying law more accessible for terminally ill Coloradans,” said Shannon. “We all have our own narrative of how we want our lives to end. None is right, and none is wrong. It’s our own.”

Medical aid in dying is authorized in Washington, D.C. and 10 states, representing 22% of the nation’s population: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. There has not been one substantiated case of abuse or coercion involving medical aid in dying since Oregon implemented the nation’s first such law in 1997.

About Compassion & Choices

Compassion & Choices is the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization working to improve care, expand options, and empower everyone to chart their end-of-life journey, with 450,000 supporters nationwide. For more information, visit: CompassionAndChoices.org/Colorado 

Colorado English Language Media Contact:

Marina Gephart, (360) 601-2396, [email protected] 

National English Language Media Contact:

Sean Crowley, (202) 495-8520, [email protected] 

Spanish Language Media Contact:

Patricia A. González-Portillo, (323) 819-0310, [email protected]  

Compassion & Choices
Media Contacts

Sean Crowley
Media Relations Director
[email protected]

Patricia A. González-Portillo
National Latino Media Director
[email protected]
(323) 819 0310

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