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.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard. Subscribe here.

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