DENVER (AP) – Supporters of a Colorado right-to-die bill tried to overcome a defeat in a 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.
Opponents argued the bill would facilitate doctor-assisted suicide, especially with wrong terminal diagnoses, and they insisted existing hospice and palliative care for the dying is sufficient. They testified in droves Wednesday, and their arguments helped defeat a similar proposal last year.
A Senate committee voted 3-2 along party lines to reject the bill late Wednesday.
“What this bill asks me as a physician is to look at my patients with sympathy rather than empathy,” said Dr. Robert Jotte, an oncologist at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers. “We can’t as a medical profession give up on these patients.”
John Lobitz, a retired Oregon physician, said the bill should be considered an extension of palliative care. “Sometimes the pain and suffering is beyond what palliative care can do, and I think these patients deserve a right to have a choice,” Lobitz said. He said he never prescribed lethal drugs under Oregon’s first-in-the-nation right-to-die law.
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The House Judiciary Committee set aside eight hours for testimony.
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 purpose is the same as last year: To provide comfort, both psychological and physical, to people in these final stages,” said Court.
Washington, Vermont and California have passed right-to-die laws. New York, Arizona and Maryland are among states considering legislation. Montana’s state Supreme Court has ruled that doctors could use a patient’s request for life-ending medication as a defense against any criminal charges.
– By JAMES ANDERSON, AP Writer
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