Denver, Colo., Nov 9, 2016 / 02:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a lopsided Election Day vote, Colorado voters decided to legalize assisted suicide. Foes of the ballot measure warned that it will have grave consequences for the vulnerable.
“The mission we have as citizens of Colorado should be to help people live with dignity — not to offer them more options to kill themselves,” the Colorado Catholic Conference said Nov. 9.
Colorado voters approved assisted suicide by a vote of 65 percent to 35 percent. The conference said the passage of the assisted suicide measure was “a great travesty of compassion and choice for the sick, the poor, the elderly and our most vulnerable residents.”
The ballot measure, modeled on a 22-year-old Oregon law, is called the Colorado End-of-Life Options Act. It uses the language of “medical aid in dying.” It will allow an adult with a terminal illness to request a lethal prescription from their physician. The person must be deemed mentally competent and two physicians must diagnosis the person as having six months or fewer to live. The measure requires self-administration of the drug, called secobarbital, which is also used for lethal injections in some states. The ballot measure requires the official cause of death to be listed as a patient’s underlying condition, not as an assisted suicide.
Barbara Coombs, president of legal assisted suicide advocacy group Compassion and Choices, said the vote was “an especially tremendous victory for terminally ill adults who worry about horrific suffering in their final days,” the Associated Press reports. The state's Catholic conference rejected depictions of assisted suicide as a private choice: “killing, no matter what its motives, is never a private matter; it always impacts other people and has much wider implications.”
The measure will deepen divisions of race, ethnicity, and income, the conference charged. “As Pope Francis has noted it only furthers a ‘throwaway’ culture,” it said. “Proposition 106 has legalized the ability of a doctor to write prescriptions for the sole purpose of killing another human being and the ability of insurance companies to refuse treatment of patients they consider terminal.”
Divine Mercy Supportive Care, a Colorado-based nonprofit hospice and palliative health care provider, declared itself a “no-kill provider” in the wake of the vote. The Catholic organization’s policies follow the U.S. bishops’ ethical and religious directives for Catholic health care.
The organization presented itself as “the antidote to assisted suicide.” It said advances in pain and symptom management have helped alleviate the suffering of advanced illness. At the same time, it said several other Colorado hospice agencies have said they are willing to accommodate assisted suicide.
Proponents of legal assisted suicide failed to pass bills in the Colorado legislature in 2015 and 2016, before placing the proposal on the ballot. The ballot measure’s supporters raised $4.8 million from groups like the Compassion & Choices Action Network, the Denver Post reports. It presented the story of Brittany Maynard, who killed herself in Oregon in 2014 while suffering an aggressive brain tumor.
Catholic, Mormon, and Evangelical leaders played a role in the opposition to the ballot measure. Opponents raised $2.3 million, including contributions from the Dioceses of Denver, St. Louis, and Arlington. Five other states have similar laws or court action permitting assisted suicide: Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, and Vermont.