DENVER (CBS4) – A letter to the editor written by a man who was dying has prompted a controversial bill at the state Capitol that would legalize assisted dying.

The letter begins, “Dear representatives and senators of the Colorado General Assembly … I have to give my testimony to you now, because by next week I hope to be dead.”

Charlie Selsberg (credit: CBS)

Charlie Selsberg (credit: CBS)

Suffering from ALS, Charlie Selsberg had decided to starve himself to death.

“You have to understand that my dad was not a public guy, he was a quiet guy,” his daughter Julie Selsberg said.

But the letter, published in the Denver Post last February, was a cry for help. Charlie Selsberg begged for a law that would allow aid in dying.

“I think it just became, ‘I have to tell somebody so that I can help somebody else,’ ” Julie Selsberg said. “He said, ‘I want you to help me. I want to write (an article) and tell them this should be a law in Colorado because what I’m going through is not fair.’ ”

Julie Selsberg says her dad didn’t want to die — he had five grandkids — it had been decided for him. What he wanted was to die in a dignified way.

“He told us he was not afraid to die, he was afraid how he was going to die,” she said. “It took his body 13 days to shut down, and that’s just suffering, plain suffering.”

A year later the letter has prompted legislation at the state Capitol.

“I found out he was a constituent, so I wrote him a letter and said, ‘Your words have touched me, and they won’t be in vain,’ ” said Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver.

Court is sponsoring a bill modeled after a law in Oregon that would allow doctors to prescribe and pharmacists to dispense a lethal dose of medicine to someone who is terminally ill.

“I think it’s kind for us to let people have that comfort at that stage,” Court said.

“People don’t want to look at it and they don’t want to think about it because it’s death and it’s hard to talk about,” Julie Selsberg said.

CBS4's Shaun Boyd talks with Julie Selsberg (credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Shaun Boyd talks with Julie Selsberg (credit: CBS)

But she says it’s harder still to watch a loved one die as her dad did.

“I watched him suffer, and if we can stop other people from having to go through that, something good can come from something very terrible for our family,” she said.

Five other states have passed similar laws, but not without opposition from religious groups and some disability advocates.

The bill being introduced in Colorado would require a person be within six months of dying and mentally sound — as determined by two doctors — and able to administer the medicine themselves.

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