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End of Life Options Bill Fails

Posted: February 25, 2016 at 8:00 am by , in Capitol Coverage, Morning Magazine

A bill that would have allowed terminally ill patients to take medication to end their own lives failed in the state legislature. The main sponsors asked lawmakers to defeat the bill before it could be debated by the full House. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

 

“The choice we made today, was to give you the relief from having to have this conversation because we know many of you have deeply held convictions that make you uncomfortable with this bill,” said Representative Lois Court (D-Denver). “We are doing you this favor, to not have this debate, but make no mistake the voice of the people of this state will be heard.”

Court said she decided to pull the bill on the morning of the debate when she realized she didn’t have the votes. She also wasn’t happy with some of the amendments she thought would be added to the bill.  The decision surprised many of her colleagues who were anticipating a lengthy floor discussion. One lawmaker had rescheduled a bill to be heard in committee to a different day to accommodate the debate; another had invited a special guest who supported the end of life bill to hear the floor discussion in person.

“To those who are actively dying and those who are not. I’m sorry that we could not help you. I’m sorry that our state legislature has failed you,” said Representative Joann Ginal (D- Fort Collins) the other main sponsor of the bill.

While it’s common for lawmakers to delay controversial measures on the calendar, it’s rare for a member to outright kill their own bill before a floor debate.  As she was doing so it, it was from the tenor of her voice that Court wasn’t happy with some members of her own party.

“I’m profoundly disappointed in you colleagues, because you have disappointed 65 percent of your constituents, because we are denying 65 percent of Coloradans who want the opportunity to make this decision,” said Court.

It’s the second straight year that Court and Ginal have sponsored the bill. In 2015 it failed to pass its first committee.  It would have allowed patients with a diagnosis of less than six months to live to take life-ending medication. Two physicians would need to approve the medicine, and the patient would need to be mentally competent to make the decision and administer the drug.

Lawmakers in both parties have strong opinions on the proposal. And while the debate doesn’t fall entirely along party lines, most members of the GOP oppose it, and it would have faced almost certain defeat in the Republican controlled Senate.

Some lawmakers were also worried about taking a tough vote in a political election year for a measure they felt would ultimately fail. Currently four states, Oregon, Washington, California and Vermont have right to die regulatory frameworks in place. Backers of a bill allowing euthanasia are hoping to get that measure on the ballot in Colorado this fall.