One year after a similar effort was defeated, the Colorado legislature will revisit proposals to legalize assisted suicide, with opponents warning against creating incentives for people to kill themselves.
“If this legislation becomes law, it will place the lives of the vulnerable in the hands of an insurance and health care industry whose profit-driven culture would incentivize doctors to prescribe death,” Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila said in a video.
“These bills are not good for us, because they make it easier for people with bad intentions to prey upon the disabled.”
The archbishop added an even stronger warning: “The moral aspects of this debate are very clear: God has taught us not to kill. And that includes killing ourselves.”
House Bill 1054 — along with a companion Senate bill — in the 2016 Colorado legislature would legalize assisted suicide in the name of “aid-in-dying.” The House bill, titled the Colorado End-of-life Options Act, will be a subject of a Feb. 4 hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.
The legislation would allow a Colorado resident who is terminally ill to request an “aid-in-dying” prescription from his or her attending doctor in order “to hasten the individual’s death.” The doctor may write the prescription if at least two health care providers say the individual is capable of making an informed decision.
The bill includes a form request for medication “to end my life in a humane and dignified manner.”
If passed into law, the legislation would grants immunity to participants in assisted suicide from civil and criminal liability and from professional discipline. The bill says that actions in accord with the act will not constitute suicide, assisted suicide, mercy killing, homicide or elder abuse. The bill would make it a felony to coerce someone or exert “undue influence” to secure an aid-in-dying request.
In February 2015 a bill with similar goals, the Colorado Death with Dignity Act, failed in a bipartisan committee vote of 8-5.
The bill has drawn substantial opposition from disability advocates.
The Colorado Catholic Conference said the 2016 proposal to allow assisted suicide would “corrupt the medical profession” and violate medical ethics that require physicians “to serve life and never to kill.”
“The voiceless or marginalized in our society - the poor, the frail elderly, and racial minorities would be the first to feel pressure to die,” the conference said Jan. 19. It charged that the legislation would “demean the lives of vulnerable patients and expose them to exploitation by those who feel they are better off dead.”
Archbishop Aquila said Colorado is “filled with kind, friendly, caring people. The state is “not a place where doctors would be allowed to kill one of their patients.”
He said the bills would be bad for the future of medicine.
“Doctors, nurses and pharmacists would face pressure from those who want them to act against their training: ‘do no harm,’” the archbishop said. He added that such pressure on medical professionals has happened in Oregon, where assisted suicide is legalized.
“Fight against House Bill 1054 and Senate Bill 25 for the sake of the integrity of Colorado and its people,” he said. “I encourage you to make your voice heard.”
The House bill is sponsored by Reps. Lois Court and Joann Ginal. Its Senate counterpart is sponsored by Sen. Michael Merrifield.
The Colorado Catholic Conference and other assisted suicide opponents are asking Coloradans to contact their representatives and members of the House Judiciary Committee to voice their opposition to the bill.
“May God bless all of us as we defend Colorado and its most vulnerable people,” Archbishop Aquila said in the video.
The archbishop’s video and more information on the bills are available at the Archdiocese of Denver’s website at http://archden.org/life.