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Colorado aid-in-dying proponents submit signatures

Organizers believe they have enough to qualify for ballot
Dan Diaz, husband of the late Brittany Maynard, speaks at the Colorado Capitol on June 21 in favor of a ballot proposal that would ask voters to allow terminally ill patients to request life-ending medication. Maynard gained national attention in 2014 for her fight with brain cancer and her desire to have life-ending medication.

DENVER – Proponents of allowing terminally ill patients to request life-ending medication submitted more than 160,000 signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

Colorado End of Life Options delivered the signatures to the secretary of state’s office Thursday afternoon.

“I personally don’t know whether I would take the option to exercise medical aid-in-dying, and hope never to be confronted with that decision,” said Denver resident Matt Larson, who was diagnosed with brain cancer last year.

“But, knowing that dying from brain cancer can be an agonizing and painful death, simply having the option would bring me a tremendous amount of peace and comfort now while I continue my fight.”

It takes 98,492 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. Proponents believe they have submitted enough signatures to provide a cushion to qualify.

The effort would impact terminally ill adult patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live. Two physicians would need to confirm the prognosis, patients would need to be mentally capable, the medication would need to be self-administered, two oral requests separated by 15 days and a third written request would be needed, and patients would have the right to rescind the request at any time.

Colorado would join five states with medical aid-in-dying laws.

Opponents call the program “assisted suicide,” to the ire of proponents. They point to religious concerns and possible unintended consequences.

Critics raise fears that the legislation would lead to elder abuse, in which a patient’s heir might push for end-of-life options for financial gain. They also suggest that doctors might misdiagnose how long a person has to live.

But proponents point out that 65 percent of Coloradans support the effort, according to polling touted by the campaign.

The drive comes after the Legislature failed to advance similar legislation.