Proposed Assisted Suicide Bill Voted Down By Colorado Lawmakers

by Sofia Infante

 

On February 6 by an 8-5 bipartisan vote, the Colorado House Committee voted down House Bill HB1125, which sought to legalized physician assisted suicide, almost certainly ending the possibility of its being passed during this session. The decision came after an 11-hour long hearing where lawmakers heard testimony from terminally ill patients, clergy, and physicians. The measure, which was being called the “Colorado Death with Dignity Act,” would have allowed terminally ill individuals to end their lives by ingesting a lethal dose of prescribed medication. Under the now defunct bill, which was drafted by State Representative Joann Ginal (D-Fort Collins), the patient would have had to be terminally ill, with less than six months to live, mentally competent, and must have submited a written and oral request to end their lives in the presence of a disinterested witness. In the US, physician assisted suicide is legal in Oregon, Montana, Washington, New Jersey, and Vermont and although the bill was defeated in Colorado, similar bills are under review in other states. Proponents of the measure argue that a person should have the right to choose when, how, and in whose presence, they will to die.

Rep Lois Court, D-Denver, a supporter of the bill, argued, “This is not suicide. Their illness is going to kill them. They want to choose the what, the when the where and the with whom. The with whom is really the most important thing.” John David, who is suffering from an advanced stage of kidney cancer, provided testimony during the 11-hour hearing, stating, “My end-of-life decision should be mine–not the state of Colorado, not the church’s, nor any special industry or interest group.” The freedom to make the manner of dying a personal choice underlies many of the proponent’s arguments. Rep. Ginal commented, “This is a personal freedom. It’s a personal and a difficult choice. Respect the wishes of competent people who have a right to choose the time and the manner of how they wish to end their life.”

 

Opponents argue that the measure promotes a hazardous black-and-white view of dying. Jennifer Ballentine, an end of life expert with Hospice Analytics, noted, “Proponents offer a stark—sand false—choice between terrible suffering or committing suicide with prescription drugs.” The proposal has also received criticism for its lack of adequate safeguards against the potential of taking advantage of depressive, handicapped, and otherwise disabled individuals.

 

Patricia Zeigler, assistant director of Southwest Center for Independence, a self-help center for people with disabilities, said that society already views handicapped people differently and may influence physician’s treatment of terminally ill disabled individuals. She commented, “I wonder, if we don’t give them credence in other areas of day-to-day life, will they get the proper consideration with this?”

 

Carrie Ann Lucas, an attorney with a progressive neuromuscular disorder and executive director of the Center for Rights of Parents with Disabilities, voiced concern that insurance companies and physicians would be more likely to encourage terminally ill patients to end their lives to avoid incurring greater healthcare costs. Lucas, who relies on a ventilator, explained, “Without the medical equipment, my life expectancy is measured in hours… Not days, not weeks, not months.” She asserted, “The title of the bill is highly offensive in suggesting that my family and friends who have (died) were undignified because they did not choose suicide.”

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