February 7, 2015 / 8:25 AM / 5 years ago

Colorado lawmakers vote down assisted suicide bill

DENVER (Reuters) - After 10 hours of emotional testimony and debate, Colorado lawmakers late on Friday voted down a proposed assisted-suicide law that would have allowed terminally-ill patients to end their lives with prescription drugs.

By an 8-to-5 bipartisan vote, the so-called “Death with Dignity” bill was rejected by the Public Health and Human Services Committee in the state’s House of Representatives. The measure was sponsored by two Democratic lawmakers.

“Supporting a concept and a bill are two different things,” said committee chairwoman Dianne Primavera, a Democrat, during the hearing.

The right-to-die movement gained momentum last year after Brittany Maynard - a 29-year-old California woman with terminal brain cancer - went public with her move to Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, to end her life. 

The Colorado proposal would have required two physicians to verify that the patient is terminal, had made both verbal and written statements of their intentions, and was able to self-administer the lethal medications.

Hundreds packed the committee room in Denver, as lawmakers heard testimony from both advocates and opponents of the measure.

Anita Cameron, who said she suffers from multiple disabilities, told the panel that the proposal lacked adequate safeguards.

“Doctors often make mistakes on whether someone is terminal or not,” she said, adding that her mother was told six years ago that she had just six months to live.

Lawmakers also heard testimony from a retired Colorado physician, Charles Hatchette, who made a video in support of the measure shortly before he died from complications of Lou Gehrig’s disease last month.

“There is more to life than just extending its length,” Hatchette said on the video played for lawmakers.

Oregon, Montana, Washington, New Mexico and Vermont allow some form of assisted suicide, and similar legislation is pending in several other states.

A poll conducted last month by Colorado pollster Talmey-Drake Research showed 68 percent of state residents surveyed favored the bill.

On Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned that country’s ban on assisted suicide.

Editing by Curtis Skinner and Michael Urquhart

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