Right-to-die supporters try again in House

Posted at 1:39 PM, Feb 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-04 15:40:47-05

Should people in Colorado who suffer from terminal illness be able to choose when, where and how they die?

The first of two end-of-life option bills was heard in a senate committee Wednesday with emotional testimony both for and against the divisive issue.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Mike Merrifield, who says Colorado should adopt legislation similar to that of Washington and Oregon.  The bill would allow anyone who has a terminal illness the ability to request end-of-life medication from an attending physician. 

Joellyn Duesberry spoke to Denver7 before Wednesday's hearing and supports the bill in hopes she can be afforded the opportunity to die without suffering any further.

“I've experienced and witnessed pain and depression far beyond the reach of medicine,” said Duesberry.  “I would like to end my life in peace and in the cradle of compassion.”

There were a lot of people who call the bill dangerous to society and bad policy.  Many oppose the bill because of religious and moral beliefs, and others because of the way the bill is written.

"There's no oversight of the death, two people can be there, one can be alive one can be dead, and you know, hey dad, I've got a special drink for you, what happened,” said Margaret Dore, who spoke out in opposition of the bill.

Activists insist it's not a partisan issue, especially in a swing state split nearly evenly split among independent, Republican and Democratic voters.

"This is really a libertarian issue that transcends party lines: 'This is my life. I want to control it," said Roland Halpern, Denver-based outreach director for Compassion and Choices, which advocates for such laws.

The bill is co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Michael Merrifield of Colorado Springs and Reps. Lois Court of Denver and Joann Ginal of Fort Collins. It requires that a mentally competent patient have a six-month prognosis and get two doctors to sign off after three requests for life-ending medication. It calls for safe storage of lethal drugs and recognizes that a patient can change his or her mind.

The committee voted 3-2 along party lines to reject the bill late Wednesday.  Supporters hope to overcome the defeat in the  GOP-led state Senate committee by urging a Democrat-led House panel Thursday to provide a legal option for the terminally ill to end their lives.