Northwest Colorado providers to decide on Proposition 106
Widespread support for Colorado End-Of-Life-Options Act
Across Colorado 1.8 million people or roughly 65 percent voted in favor and just under 1 million or roughly 35 percent voted against the proposition.
In Moffat County 3,569 people voted in favor and 2,788 voted to oppose.
In Routt County 10,633 people voted in favor and 3,124 voted to oppose.
Of 64 Colorado counties, 14 opposed the measure with 13 of those counties located on the eastern plains.
Conejos County was the only Western Slope county where voters opposed the measure.
Craig — The Colorado End-Of-Life Options Act, also known as Proposition 106, was passed by almost 65 percent of voters during the November general election and was signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper on Dec. 16.
The law allows, “terminally ill adults in the final stage of life to request and receive from their doctor a prescription to bring about a peaceful death,” according to the Compassion & Choices website.
Now regulators and medical providers are scrambling to establish policies and notifications in line with the measure.
“It became law way ahead of anyone having the ability to create the processes and know what we would be doing,” said Northwest Colorado Health Executive Director Lisa Brown.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is the state agency tasked with regulating the new law.
“CDPHE is pursuing an emergency rule-making. The emergency rule-making hearing before the board of health is scheduled for Jan. 18,” said CDPHE Deputy Director of Communications Jan Stapleman.
Emergency rules last for a maximum of 120 days, allowing the department time to hold a permanent rule-making process in April, Stapleman said.
The law also requires health facilities take immediate steps.
“Health facilities will need to work with their attorneys and boards to understand the law, establish policies and procedures and notify physicians of the policies,” said CDPHE Community Involvement Manager Warren Smith in an emal.
The law does not require facilities or physicians to provide the service.
“Facilities can preclude physicians from participating at their locations but would need clear policies and notifications in place first,” Smith wrote in the email. “Facilities would not need to notify the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment of their policies — they would be required to notify us only if/when end-of-life medication is dispensed.”
The Colorado Hospital Association did not take a position on the proposition, but now that it has been adopted they are providing member facilities with advice and education.
“Hospitals that opt in will give the option to patients, who choose to take aid-in-dying medication, to do so on the hospital premises,” according to a training PowerPoint provided by the association. “Hospitals that opt out can deny a patient’s request to take the aid-in-dying medication on the hospital premises.”
Either way, hospitals must clearly notify staff and patients, said Julie Lonborg, Colorado Hospital Association’s vice president of communications and media relations.
“I think some hospitals may take a short-term position and reevaluate in the long term,” Lonborg said.
The Memorial Hospital at Craig expects to consider their position at their next board meeting on Jan. 19.
“Our Board of Trustees will be making a decision after weighing options and input from the medical staff at our January board meeting,” said Vice President of Hospital Operations Jennifer Riley.
Based on the experience of other states with similar laws, Lonborg said that it is rare for aid-in-dying medication to be administered in a hospital.
Other types of providers have more to consider.
“It’s not nearly as clear-cut as saying yes or no. Within our organization we have multiple lines of business. Two are most likely impacted: hospice/palliative care, end of life service, and the community health center where we see anyone regardless of ability to pay,” Brown said.
Northwest Colorado voters passed the measure and the will of the people will be taken into consideration as Northwest Colorado Health decides its approach.
“Our board is very conscious of our role to be in service to the community. We also have a responsibility to comply with all regulations and laws and we are looking at how we can do that,” Brown said. “Our organizational values are tied to the values of our community. It is also important to us to support our staff and patients in their own personal desires.”
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