State health department releases first medical aid-in-dying report

Mark Salley, Communications Director | 303-692-2013 |
DENVER — Data compiled by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment show that 69 terminally ill Coloradans received a physician’s prescription in 2017 to obtain aid-in-dying medication to voluntarily end their lives. Aid-in-dying medication was dispensed by Colorado pharmacies to 50 patients.
These data do not show whether individuals ingested the aid-in-dying medication dispensed by the pharmacy; however, among all those prescribed the medication, the department has received death certificates for 56 patients through routine vital records registration. Note that not all of these deceased patients were dispensed aid-in-dying medication, and deaths may have been due to ingestion of aid-in-dying medication, the underlying terminal illness or condition, or other causes.
The Colorado End-of-Life Options Act passed in 2016 requires the department to collect data from physicians who prescribe aid-in-dying medication, and from pharmacists who dispense this medication. These data are presented in Colorado’s first annual statistical report describing Colorado’s participation in medical aid-in-dying.
All data collected concerning participation in medical aid-in-dying are confidential. The department is prohibited from releasing any information about individual patients, physicians or pharmacists who participate in the act.
Characteristics of Coloradans who were prescribed aid-in-dying medication and who have since died mirror those of other states with medical aid-in-dying laws, including similar proportions of female (46 percent) and male participants (54 percent); similar median age (75 years); similar terminal illness diagnoses, including cancer (64 percent), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, 10 percent), heart diseases (including heart failure, 10 percent) and respiratory diseases (including COPD, 9 percent); and similar proportions of participants enrolled in hospice care (93 percent).
The report describes other characteristics of individuals prescribed aid-in-dying medication who have since died, including age group, race/ethnicity, marital status, educational attainment, county of residence and where death occurred.
To comply with the Colorado End-of-Life Options Act, physicians who prescribe aid-in-dying medication are reminded to submit the following documentation to the department:
•    Attending/prescribing physician form.
•    Patient’s completed written request for medical aid-in-dying medication.
•    Written confirmation of mental capacity from a licensed mental health provider (if applicable).
•    Consulting physician’s written confirmation of diagnosis and prognosis.
Health care providers who dispense aid-in-dying medication must submit a medication dispensing form.
Instructions for reporting, including forms, and this report are available on the Colorado Medical Aid-in-Dying web page