A Colorado legislative committee has approved a dangerous bill that would make the state the fifth to legalize assisted suicide, following Oregon, Washington, Vermont and California.
The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill Thursday and now heads to the full state House, where is faces a close and contentious vote. Should the measure be voted out of the Democrat-dominated House pro-life advocates hope the Republican-led state Senate will be able to defeat the measure, as it did on Wednesday when a panel defeated the legislation.
The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill on a 6-5 party-line vote late Thursday after hearing 10 hours of 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.
Leading physicians said the bill would have the medical profession turning its back on the most vulnerable patients.
“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.”
Another speaker, an attorney opposed the bill as well:
Probate attorney Skip Morgan opposed the bill, drawing from his experience in estate law.
“I am gravely concerned about this proposed act,” Morgan told the committee. “My years of experience tell me that the safeguards … are unenforceable.
“The requirement for two witness to witness the actual execution by the patient makes no intonation that those two have any idea of this patient,” Morgan. In some estate cases, he said, attorneys used random members of their staff to act as witnesses.
One of the witnesses to a patient’s assisted suicide would be allowed to be an heir under the House bill, Morgan said, which could involve “somebody with a claim, someone who may benefit from their death.”
“There is no requirement to witness the administrations of medication. There’s no requirement that this actually be documented.”
Morgan said that insurance companies could abuse the bill, as “the least expensive treatment is to put that patient to death.”
Rep. Paul Lundeen, a Republican, asked if the bill could promote elder abuse.
“Yes, I have seen that … in a number of the proceedings,” Morgan said. “I have seen a very subtle pressure put on these people. They see themselves as a burden. ‘Mom, I love you to death, but how much longer do you want to go on?'”Margaret Dore, an attorney in Washington state, opposed the bill, which is similar to Washington’s Death With Dignity Act.
“The law is deceptively written,” Dore said. “The term ‘aid in dying’ makes you trust this is for the dying. There’s no requirement that people be dying. The bill is sold as choice and control. It’s stacked against the person.”
Dore said the medication typically used is water-soluble, and could be “given to a patient without their consent.”
She said she’d had a client whose father was given the medication, and decided not to take it when he brought it home, but took it later when he was intoxicated.
“They’re sitting ducks,” Dore said.