Feb 9, 2022 - News

Patients struggle to access Colorado's aid-in-dying law 5 years later

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Five years after Colorado voters approved a ballot measure to allow medically assisted suicide, objections among physicians are limiting access.

What's new: A survey of Colorado physicians who treat patients likely to be interested in "medical aid-in-dying" found 81% were willing to discuss it and even more are open to making referrals.

  • But less than half at 48% were willing to be the consulting physician or act as the attending physician, both of which are required under law, according to a published study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado medical school.

What they're saying: "One of the conclusions of our research is that there's a need for education, not just for physicians who haven't done this," lead researcher Eric Campbell told Colorado Public Radio.

By the numbers: 472 physicians filed paperwork to prescribe the medical suicide drugs, but in some cases patients had to drive to the Denver area to find a practitioner.

  • Through 2020, 554 people were prescribed medication to end their lives, according to a state report, and 422 prescriptions were dispensed.
  • The number of prescriptions increased 19% in 2020 from the year prior, and has increased each year since the law took effect.
  • It's unclear how many people died from their underlying illness, other causes or the medication.

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