Colorado’s Annual Report on End-of-Life Options Act Shows it is Working Well Two Years After Implementation
Data supports conclusions in Compassion & Choices report
Compassion & Choices today lauded the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) annual report detailing usage of the End-of-Life Options Act during its second year of implementation.
Colorado is one of a growing number of states, where medical aid in dying is authorized as an option for mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can choose to take to die peacefully if their suffering becomes unbearable.
Data from the report indicate that Colorado’s Access Campaign is showing incredible progress, in line or ahead of other states that have authorized medical aid-in-dying, with a 74 percent increase in prescriptions written in 2018. The law took effect on Dec. 16, 2016 after its adoption as one of the most popular ballot measures in Colorado history with 65 percent voting in favor.
“We have been working hard on implementation efforts,” said Samantha Trad, Access Campaign Director for Compassion & Choices. “Some of our initiatives include a Find Care Tool on our website to help Coloradans find providers who will fully support them in all of their end-of-life decisions and our Doc2Doc confidential consultation line for physicians. We are working to ensure that every terminally ill Coloradan has equal access to all end-of-life care options, including hospice, pain control, palliative care and medical aid in dying.”
“The number of people who sought this compassionate end-of-life option in 2018 shows that the ability to access medical aid in dying is becoming easier for terminally ill Coloradans, as more doctors are having these important conversations about the end of life with their patients,” said Senator Lois Court (D-District 31). “Medical aid in dying is becoming part of the standard of care in Colorado, which is what I had hoped for when I brought forward bills on the matter, and then endorsed this campaign in 2016.”
Representative Joann Ginal (D-House District 52) stated: “Having this option in Colorado means that we’ve empowered people to best manage their lives and their deaths. I lost my brother to cancer in 2015, which is why I sponsored many bills attempting to authorize medical aid in dying before the voters passed the End-of-Life Options Act. Despite wonderful hospice care, he remained in pain until the end. This report shows that these Coloradans were able to find autonomy and peace of mind through this end-of-life option.”
The report by CDPHE’s Center for Health and Environmental Data is on par with a report put out by Compassion & Choices in December on the second anniversary of the law taking effect:
- 125 terminally ill adults with six months or fewer to live utilized the option under the law to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they could decide to take to die peacefully in their sleep if their end-of-life suffering became unbearable.
- 104 of the 125 people who qualified for the medication, either took it, died from their terminal disease or some other cause, according to their death certificates.
- 88 of the 104 people who died (93%) were enrolled in hospice care.
- 66 Colorado physicians wrote prescriptions for aid-in-dying medication.
- 23 Colorado pharmacists dispensed aid-in-dying medication.
Dr. Cory Carroll, a family physician in Fort Collins, who has prescribed medical aid in dying to five terminally ill patients who wanted the assurance that they would be able to die peacefully, stated: “The data from the CDPHE report reinforce that the law continues to work well and the option of medical aid in dying is becoming a part of end-of-life care discussions. I support my patients in their end-of-life decisions, and it is crucial that every qualified, terminally ill adult has meaningful access to this care option through their own medical team.”
The report also included three tables of detailed statistics including:
- Underlying terminal illnesses/conditions among patients prescribed aid-in-dying medication.
- Categories of medications dispensed to patients prescribed aid-in-dying medication.
- Summary of patients who died following prescription of aid-in-dying medication, including by sex, age group, race/ethnicity, marital status, education, county of residence, place of death and hospice enrollment status.
Colorado residents and medical providers can find more information about medical aid-in-dying, including videos, forms and the Find Care Tool which identifies hospitals, clinics and hospices which have adopted policies supportive of patients who may choose medical aid in dying as one of their end-of-life care options at CompassionAndChoices.org/Colorado.