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Colorado's Death with Dignity Act Debated in Legislature

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State Capitol building, Denver, Colorado State Capitol building, Denver, Colorado
 Law makers in Denver considered the "Colorado Death with Dignity Act." Colorado is among a handful of states currently considering laws to allow the terminally ill to get doctor prescribed medication to die.

Dozens of people testified in front of the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee on Friday. The testimony lasted more than ten hours. 

Senator Michael Merrifield of Colorado Springs is the senate co-prime sponsor of the bill. He watched prostate cancer slowly kill his father before getting his own cancer diagnosis.

"He told me about a month before he died, if he'd known that it was going to be like this, he would have taken his own life," Merrifield said. 

Brittany Maynard's story brought the debate to life across the country. The 29-year-old moved from California to Oregon after a terminal brain cancer diagnosis to take advantage of the states right to die law. She died on November 1st.

Colorado's bill is modeled after Oregon's. It would require dying patients to get two doctors to sign off on their verbal and written requests to end their lives. Patients must be mentally competent and able to administer the medication, in the form of a pill, themselves.

Carrie Ann Lucas of "Not Dead Yet Colorado" uses a wheelchair and ventilator because of a neuromuscular disease. She worries patients could be coerced. She even think if she were to become depressed, doctors may offer a lethal dose, rather than hope. 

"I would be offered assisted suicide," she said. "Instead of being referred for mental health treatment, which is what I would so desperately need."

Anita Cameron suffers from degenerative diseases as well. She brought her mother home to Colorado to die surrounded by family after a terminal diagnosis and six month prognosis.

"Once she got here to Colorado, she got better," Cameron said. "That was six years ago. She is alive and active."

She believes terminally ill patients always have the option to die by refusing treatment. "They could kill themselves any way they see fit," Cameron said. 

Dignity, Merrifeild says is having the right to choose how you die.

"If you decide that you're going to tough it out to the end, then that's a very dignified response," he said. "If you decide you want to die in comfort, with your loved ones around you at home, that's dignity as well."

The Colorado Death with Dignity Act failed in committee on Friday night in an eight to five vote. Right now Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico allow patients to seek aid in dying.
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