Colorado End-of-Life Options Act

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The Colorado End-of-Life Options Act, C.R.S. § 25-48-101, et seq., became effective December 16, 2016, when it Governor Hickenlooper signed into law the voter-passed initiative to allow terminally ill adults to end their lives with prescribed medication.  Five other states, California, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have similar laws.

Who may invoke the law?

In order to invoke the law, a person must meet the following criteria:

  • The individual must be 18 years of age or older;
  • The individual must be a Colorado resident;
  • The individual’s attending physician has diagnosed the individual with a terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less;
  • The individual’s attending physician has determined the individual has mental capacity; and
  • The individual has voluntarily expressed the wish to receive a prescription for medical aid-in-dying medication.

Can visitors take advantage of the Act?

No.  Colorado resident means an individual who is able to demonstrate residency in Colorado by providing any of the following documentation to his or her attending physician:

  • A Colorado driver’s license or identification card;
  • A Colorado voter registration card or other documentation showing the individual is registered to vote in Colorado;
  • Evidence that the individual owns or leases property in Colorado; or
  • A Colorado income tax return for the most recent tax year.

May a third party assist the patient?

No.  The patient must be able to “self-administer” the prescription, meaning affirmative, conscious, and physical act of administering the medication to himself to bring about his own death.

How are requests made?

A patient must make two oral requests, separated by at least fifteen days, and a written request which is signed, dated, and witnessed by two disinterested persons who attest that the patient is mentally capable, acting voluntarily, and not being coerced to sign the request.

Do Colorado physicians have a duty to prescribe or dispense?

No.  A provider may choose whether to participate in providing medical aid-in-dying medication.  If the provider is unable or unwilling to carry out an individual’s request, and the individual transfers his care to a new provider, the original provider shall upon request transfer the relevant medical records to the new provider.

A health care facility may prohibit a physician employed or under contract from writing a prescription for use on the premises.  A health care facility may not discipline, suspend, revoke license or privileges, or otherwise penalize or sanction a physician for actions taken in good-faith reliance on this law or for refusing to act under this law.

Three major health systems with 30 hospitals among them (Centura Health and SCL Health System, both religiously affiliated, and HealthOne) have announced they will not participate in the law. What that means for doctors, though, varies by system.

Please contact our Denver estate planning attorney if you would like to update your estate plan, including your advance medical directives.  https://www.estateplanninglawyerdenver.com/practice-areas/medical-treatment-decisions-living-wills/

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