Compassion & Choices Releases 2018 Colorado End-of-Life Options Act Report
Data show that medical aid-in-dying law is working well on second anniversary since it took effect
Two years after the implementation of the End-of-Life Options Act, which authorizes medical aid in dying for terminally ill adults, it is clear that the law is working well at this stage of implementation.
The law authorizes mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or fewer to live, the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can choose to take to die peacefully if their end-of-life suffering becomes unbearable. The law took effect on Dec. 16, 2016 after its adoption as one of the most popular ballot measures in Colorado history with 65% voting in favor.
Implementation is usually gradual and takes time. Based upon data compiled by Compassion & Choices, it is estimated that Colorado is right on track and will see a 25-30% increase in prescriptions written for medical aid in dying in 2018.
In 2017, 37 doctors across the state wrote prescriptions for 69 patients for medical aid- in-dying prescriptions, and based on the 2017 data summary released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in February 2018, 50 of those patients filled their prescription, which is typical of other state data. Many qualified patients never fill their prescriptions, but go through the request process to have it on hand just in case they need it.
Dr. Harry Calvino, a physician in Fort Collins whose wife Antje Calvino took aid-in-dying medication on August 19, 2018, said: “Five years ago, Antje was diagnosed with stage 4 appendix cancer and fought it to the end with a vengeance. She was in constant pain. Antje had excellent at-home hospice care, but when she could no longer get out of bed, she decided it was time. On August 19, with her family by her side, Antje took the medication and died the way she lived, with peace, dignity and grace.“
“The stories of people who have utilized the law make it clear why the option of medical aid in dying is important and becoming a normal part of end-of-life care discussions,” said Samantha Trad, Compassion & Choices Access Campaign Director. “The Compassion & Choices Colorado Access Campaign provides free resources and education for physicians, patients, and caregivers, and works to ensure that qualified patients, like Antje Calvino, are able to have a peaceful death. Our online Find Care Tool, for example, allows people to enter their zip code and find the nearest hospital or hospice that supports a patient’s end-of-life decisions. This past year, nearly 18,000 doctors, pharmacists and Colorado residents have visited our dedicated bilingual Colorado Access Campaign website to learn about the Colorado law.”
Dr. Cory Carroll, a family physician in Fort Collins, has prescribed medical aid in dying to four patients who wanted the assurance that they would be able to die peacefully. Dr. Carroll stated: “To me, this is about patient autonomy, about what the patient wants. I support my patients in their end-of-life decisions, which is why I have written prescriptions for medical aid in dying for my terminally ill patients who qualify for it and have decided that it is right for them. Coloradans who are interested in this option should start having conversations now by asking their doctors whether they would write a prescription for aid-in-dying medication should they become terminally ill and want a prescription. It is crucial that every qualified, terminally ill adult has meaningful access to this care option through their own medical team.”
Compassion & Choices 2018 Colorado End-of-Life Options Act data:
- 2018 will see an estimated 90-100 prescriptions written for medical aid in dying based on inquiries to Compassion & Choices’ Doc2Doc service (800.247.7421 or [email protected]), its End-of-Life Consultation program and information that supporters and providers have shared. The exact number will be available when the state releases its annual report in the spring of 2019.
- Since the law went into effect in Dec 2016, nearly 6,000 Colorado residents have accessed the Compassion & Choices online Find Care Tool, the only source of information to help healthcare consumers find medical facilities, systems and hospices with policies supportive of patient decision-making around medical aid in dying.
- 118 healthcare facilities in 41 cities and towns* and 26 hospice locations in 19 cities and towns** statewide, including all of the large secular healthcare systems — Kaiser, Denver Health, the University system, HealthOne — have adopted official policies supportive of patient end-of-life decision making and are on Compassion & Choices online Find Care Tool: compassionandchoices.org/Find-Care.There also is a map of these facilities available at: http://bit.ly/COEndofLifeOptionsFriendlyLocations.
- 80% of the state’s population lives within 50 miles of a facility or hospice service that has supportive policies allowing physicians to honor their patient’s end-of-life decisions.
- Nearly 18,000 doctors, pharmacists and Colorado residents have visited the Compassion & Choices dedicated bilingual Access Campaign website to learn about the Colorado law.
- Since the law went into effect more than 1,100 doctors and healthcare professionals have received education and information from the Compassion & Choices online resource guide for medical providers.
*118 healthcare facilities are located in the following 40 cities: Aspen, Aurora (2 facilities), Basalt, Berthoud, Boulder (21 facilities), Broomfield, Brush (2 facilities), Buena Vista, Canon City (2 facilities), Castle Rock, Colorado City, Colorado Springs (4 facilities), Denver (11 facilities), Eagle, Eaton, Englewood (2 facilities), Fort Collins (5 facilities), Fort Morgan (2 facilities), Glenwood Springs, Greeley (11 facilities), Johnstown, La Junta, Lafayette (4 facilities), Lakewood, Littleton, Lone Tree (2 facilities), Longmont (3 facilities), Louisville, Loveland (10 facilities), Parker, Pueblo (6 facilities), Salida (2 facilities), Silt, Steamboat Springs, Sterling (5 facilities), Superior, Thornton, Wellington, Windsor, Winter Park, Yuma
**26 hospices are located in the following 19 cities: Alamosa, Aurora, Boulder, Canon City, Castle Rock, Colorado Springs (2 locations), Craig, Denver (3 locations), Fowler, La Junta, Lafayette, Lakewood, Longmont, Northglenn, Pueblo (3 locations), Steamboat Springs (2 locations), Trinidad, Walsenburg, Westminster (2 locations).
***If your healthcare or hospice facility is not on our Find Care Tool and you think they should be, please contact: [email protected]
In addition to Colorado, medical aid in dying is authorized in seven other U.S. jurisdictions: California, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, the District of Columbia and Hawaiʻi .