Colorado Rights Blog

ACLU of Colorado By: ACLU of Colorado 10.17.2016

ACLU of Colorado Supports Aid in Dying

This year, Colorado voters will be asked to either support or reject Proposition 106, the Colorado “End-of-Life Options Act.”

After “Aid in Dying” bills were introduced three times in the Colorado legislature without success, enough signatures were gathered to put Proposition 106 on the ballot.  If approved by voters, it will add the proposed Act to our state code; it is not a constitutional amendment.  The ACLU of Colorado supports Proposition 106.

The ACLU has historically been and remains a strong advocate for the right of individuals who are terminally ill (defined as having six months or less to live) to decide how to spend their final days, how to manage or avoid pain and suffering, and how to face death, including the right to seek physician assistance in ending one’s own life. Five states now permit physician assistance in dying. Those states are Oregon, California, Washington, Vermont, and Montana. The ACLU of New Mexico is engaged in litigation on behalf of an individual who seeks to establish aid in dying as a constitutional right.

While the ACLU supports aid in dying, it also recognizes the need for protections from abuse of these laws.  The ACLU also supports the decision to keep living despite a terminal illness and in particular wishes to uphold a culture of respect for those who are living with disabilities.  Many disability groups oppose aid in dying laws, even with safeguards. The ACLU of Colorado has chosen to maintain its support for aid in dying laws, but encourages all Coloradans to carefully consider the concerns of the disability community.  Under no circumstances should the lives of people with disabilities be devalued, and it should never be suggested that living with a disability means living with anything less than full meaning and dignity.

The ACLU advocates for safeguards in aid in dying policy, including patient access to palliative care and information about pain medication and other alternatives. There also must be demonstrated assurance that the decision to end one’s life is neither pressured nor coerced.  In addition, the law should provide a mechanism to evaluate that it is working as it is supposed to work.

Proposition 106 appears to sufficiently address these safeguards. There is a requirement for a second opinion on the diagnosis of a terminal illness.  Attending Physicians are required to provide information on alternatives and the availability of palliative care, and every patient must be provided the right and opportunity to rescind an aid in dying request.  To ensure that requests for medication are not coerced, the initiative requires that a patient make two requests for the medication, one of which must be in writing and witnessed by two people. These witnesses must attest to the person’s mental capacity and that the person is acting voluntarily. The initiative imposes documentation and reporting requirements on the Attending Physician, overseen by the Department of Public Health and Environment.  In implementing Proposition 106, strict adherence to the reporting requirements is critical to ensure the effectiveness of these safeguards.

The ACLU of Colorado affirms the rights of people facing end-of-life decisions, while urging awareness and consideration of the concerns of people living with disabilities.

See also, As a Civil Libertarian, I Struggle with Colorado’s Aid in Dying Ballot Initiative by ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney Rebecca T. Wallace.



  • Cedric Watkins is a father, uncle, entrepreneur-in-training, and a vital community pillar for many others. While behind bars, he has tirelessly devoted himself to serving his peers and his community. He developed gang disaffiliation programs for other incarcerated individuals and is currently involved with Defy Ventures. He sends letters and calls his daughter as much as he can.

    Cedric is currently in prison at Sterling Correctional Facility. He was convicted of aggravated robbery, burglary, kidnapping, theft and sentenced to 80 years; no one was seriously injured or killed. For comparison, a person convicted of second-degree murder in Colorado faces a maximum sentence of 48 years. Cedric has already served 20 years and has fully rehabilitated during that time.

    It’s time to bring Cedric home: Redemption is real. Clemency is compassion.

  • On November 21, 2016, 13 Aurora police officers responded to a simple noise complaint at Alberto Torres’s home. As happens all too often, Aurora police officers escalated this minor issue into a brutal affair. They beat Mr. Torres solely because he delayed exiting his garage to ask his wife to interpret for him. With that beating, the lives of Mr. Torres and every member of his family were changed and he has yet to recover. ACLU of Colorado fought to obtain justice for Mr. Torres, and Aurora has now paid him $285,000. But money is not justice, and the brutality of the Aurora Police Department against people of color has continued unabated.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    Imagine, if instead of 13 officers being dispatched to Mr. Torres’s home for a noise complaint, the City of Aurora sent a civilian-led response team to check on his welfare and ask that he and his friends lower their sound, resulting in a non-violent solution to a minor issue?

    ACLU Settles Case With Aurora After Police Brutalize and Unlawfully Arrest Alberto Torres

  • Hope is a discipline. It’s a commitment that together, we can create a more perfect union. We won’t rest until we fulfill the promise of equal rights for ALL people in the United States.

    Join us in our fight to fulfill this promise and move forward with hope by donating to the ACLU of Colorado. Your donation supports the ACLU’s strengths that make our work effective and collaborative.

    Donate now at

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    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people.