We get the diagnosis: We have six months to live. We’re in pain, very ill and can’t see ourselves struggling through these next few months.
None of us want to be confronted with this situation, for ourselves or for our loved ones. However, it’s very real. I know people who are going through this, and some others who have had a scary prognosis that isn’t fatal yet, anyway. We’re getting old: This is happening.
What to do? Gut it out? Suffer unbearably? Cause family and friends to suffer also? Or, make the choice to shorten the dying process with a prescription from our doctor that could allow us to choose where, when and with whom to end our misery. To approach death with peace of mind. To die gracefully and with the people we love.
This is a choice. Perhaps we would choose to die naturally after the disease has taken its toll. Perhaps we feel that taking our lives early is against our religious beliefs, or our philosophy, or our spirituality.
End-of-life decisions are very intimate and personal. They are best left to dying people with their families and doctors, not the government. Proposition 106 allows people in serious pain and terminal illness to make their own choices about their lives and their health. Choice is the operative word here.
Colorado would be the sixth state to authorize medical aid in dying. The proposed law is similar to Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, which has been in effect for almost 20 years with no proven case of abuse. The conditions are all there: You must be 18 and a Colorado resident; have a terminal illness; the diagnosis must be confirmed by a second physician; you must be able to self-administer the medication; you may have to have a psychological evaluation; you can rescind the request at any time; and it does not authorize euthanasia or mercy killing, which remain felonies in Colorado.
After two years of trying to get this legislation through the Colorado Legislature to no avail because of political gridlock, we have taken this issue to the people to get petitions signed so it could be on the ballot next month. Southwest Colorado was responsible for 18 percent of the signatures on the petitions, a great number in relation to the Denver-Boulder area.
Signatures were easy to get: 68 percent of Colorado voters support this act. Let’s make it real with a “yes” vote Nov. 8. We all want to end our lives with grace and dignity. The End of Life Options Act will not cause more people to die; it will allow fewer people to suffer.
For more information, visit coendoflifeoptions.org. Or, come to an information session with time for questions and answers from 3 to 4 p.m. and again from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 13 at Durango Public Library.
See you there!
Martha McClellan has been a developmental educator in early childhood for 38 years. She has moved her focus to the other end of life and is the author of The Aging Athlete: What We Do to Stay in the Game. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.