Colorado Probate Blog - Wade Ash Woods Hill & Farley, P.C.

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Access to Aid-In-Dying Drugs

Even though many states, including Colorado, have legalized aid-in-dying laws permitting terminally ill patients the right to end their own life, several hospitals prohibit this process. Colorado adopted aid-in-dying legislation in 2016. Accordingly, it is legal in Colorado, but faith-based hospitals have rules and policies that prohibit doctors from prescribing aid-in-dying medication to assist their terminally ill patients end their life.


There is currently a controversial case pending in Arapahoe County District Court over a doctor’s right to prescribe aid-in-dying medication to her terminally ill cancer patient. Mr. Neil Mahoney (Mr. Mahoney) was diagnosed with Stage IV stomach cancer and was told by his physician, Dr. Barbara Morris (Dr. Morris), he had only six months or less to live. Since Centura Hospital (Centura) is a faith-based hospital, its policies prohibit doctors from prescribing aid-in-dying drugs to patients who have decided to end their life pursuant to Colorado law.


In August 2019, Mr. Mahoney and Dr. Morris filed a lawsuit in Arapahoe County District Court against Centura seeking declaratory judgment and injunctive relief as to whether the hospital’s policies could lawfully prevent Dr. Morris from prescribing aid-in-dying drugs to her patient. Days after filing the lawsuit, Dr. Morris was fired by Centura despite the fact that her patient met the criteria under Colorado law for a prescription for aid-in-dying medications. Dr. Morris amended her initial Complaint and is now seeking economic and compensatory damages against Centura. The case could decide whether a health care provider can force a doctor to abide by its religious views in prescribing aid-in-dying medication. Mr. Mahoney, due to his own doctor’s inability to prescribe the medication he desperately wanted, was referred to a Longmont pharmacist, who runs a network that connects terminally ill patients in Colorado to doctors willing to follow the law.

In the past several years, a group called “Dying With Dignity of the Rockies” has helped more than 50 terminally ill Coloradans obtain the medications to end their lives. A family physician named Dr. Weeman, who operates an independent practice in Longmont, agreed to prescribe aid-in-dying drugs for Mr. Mahoney. Dr. Weeman stated, “I have to help people understand that there are choices. If you don’t know the choices of how to die, I am going to help you figure that out”. On Tuesday November 5th, Mr. Mahoney was permitted to end his life on his own terms as contemplated under Colorado law. If this is a choice you or a loved one is considering, you should choose a doctor and care providing facility which permits the procedure.

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