DENVER – Proponents of allowing terminally ill patients to request life-ending medication officially launched a ballot effort in Colorado on Tuesday.
The initiative comes after the state Legislature failed two years in a row to act.
Proponents have been collecting signatures, but on Tuesday, they held a news conference and launched a website, coendoflifeoptions.org. They must collect 98,492 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
Legislation made it through a House committee this year, but it did not have the votes to pass through the full House, so the legislation never came up for a full vote.
In the Senate, a separate bill was killed in committee. Another bill met a similar fate last year.
All hearings drew several hours of emotional testimony.
Similar to the legislation, the ballot effort asks voters to offer options to terminally ill adult patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live.
Two physicians would need to confirm the prognosis, patients would need to be mentally capable, the medication would need to be self-administered, two oral requests separated by 15 days and a third written request would be needed, and patients would have the right to rescind the request at any time.
Colorado would join five states with medical aid-in-dying laws.
One of the faces of the campaign is Dan Diaz, the husband of former California resident Brittany Maynard, who gained national attention for her fight with brain cancer at the young age of 29.
In 2014, Maynard was told she had six months to live. She moved to Oregon where she could use life-ending medication, and she documented her decision to do so. The videos went viral.
After Maynard decided to use the medication in November 2014, ending the pain that was associated with her terminal illness, Diaz picked up the fight, pushing for medical aid-in-dying laws, an effort that brought him to Colorado in February and again on Tuesday.
“The citizens of this state, if they are to find themselves in Brittany’s predicament, should not feel that they have to leave their home in order to simply have that option of a gentle passing,” Diaz said Tuesday from the steps of the Colorado Capitol.
Opponents call the program “assisted suicide,” to the ire of proponents. They point to religious concerns and possible unintended consequences.
Critics raise fears that the legislation would lead to elder abuse, in which a patient’s heir might push for end-of-life options for financial gain. They also suggest that doctors might misdiagnose how long a person has to live.
But polling taken in Colorado earlier this year revealed that 65 percent of Coloradans support the effort.
“He didn’t want any food, and he didn’t want anything to drink,” said a tearful Julie Selsberg, who was at her father’s side in 2014 as he slowly died from Lou Gehrig’s disease. “What he wanted was medical aid in dying. He wanted to be at home and to go to sleep and to die peacefully.”