Colorado passed a medical aid in dying measure Tuesday that will allow adults suffering from terminal illness to take life-ending, doctor-prescribed sleeping medication.
The ballot initiative passed overwhelmingly, by a two-thirds, one-third split, according to unofficial returns. Supporters claimed victory an hour after polls closed in Colorado.
“Today is bittersweet for our family,” said Melissa Hollis Brenkert, who watched her sister die painfully from a brain tumor. “Passage of Prop 106 means that Coloradans will now have options when facing pain and suffering at the end of their lives.”
Opponents, though, vowed to keep fighting to protect the elderly and people with disabilities, who they said are the law’s targets. “We are deeply disappointed and concerned about Colorado legalizing doctor-assisted suicide,” said Jeff Hunt, vice president of public policy for Colorado Christian University. “The fight is not over.”
Proposition 106, the “End of Life Options” measure, models Oregon’s “Death with Dignity” law, passed 22 years ago. With 87 percent of votes counted, the initiative had 1,508,202 votes, or 64.5 percent, compared with 827,676 or 35.4 percent, against.
Two physicians would have to agree the person is mentally competent and has fewer than six months to live, and the person choosing to die would have to self-administer the dosage of secobarbital, historically used in low doses as a sleeping pill. People with dementia or Alzheimer’s would not be eligible for the prescription.
“My dad wanted this option for peace of mind in his dying days and, ultimately, for the opportunity of a gentle passing,” said Julie Selsberg, who worked on the campaign. “Now we know that Coloradans believe that offering the option of medical aid in dying is the kind, compassionate, safe and just thing to do.”
The measure was among the most emotionally charged initiatives on the state ballot. Colorado would join four other states that have followed Oregon with similar laws or court action — Washington, Vermont, Montana and California.