Lucas warned of one cancer patient in Oregon, Barbara Wagner, who was denied a cancer treatment under her Medicaid health plan. The plan instead offered her two options: palliative care or assisted suicide.
According to Lucas, the majority of Oregon assisted suicide deaths were not due to pain but because of fear of disability.
She also said the bill's purported safeguards are nullified by the bill's immunity clause for those operating in "good faith." She said this means there is no way to counter problems.
Skip Morgan, a practicing probate proceedings attorney from Colorado Springs, charged that the bill's alleged safeguards are "unworkable, unknowable and unenforceable."
He pointed to the process of securing the required witnesses under the bill. "There is no requirement for witnesses to have knowledge of the patient," he said.
Also of concern is the fact that "a witness can be an interested witness, including an heir," Morgan said. He warned of cases where overreaching heirs might pressure a person to take the prescription.
Furthermore, the bill has no requirement for record-keeping, he warned. "You will not be able to tell if suicides increase," he said.
Washington state attorney Margaret Dore, with the group Choice Illusion, also opposed the bill, saying there is a "complete lack of oversight" for those who die under it. The drugs are water- and alcohol-soluble, which means they can be provided to people who do not intend to take them. And the bill would require coroners to name the terminal illness – not the lethal drug – as the cause of death, essentially "falsifying" the death certificate.
She also recounted the story of a friend who had what she believed to be a terminal diagnosis. Her doctor persuaded her not to pursue assisted suicide. The woman is still alive 15 years later.
"If she'd gone to a different doctor, she'd probably be dead," Dore said.
In January, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver released a video warning that the Colorado bill would put the vulnerable at risk and "incentivize doctors to prescribe death."
(Story continues below)
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"The moral aspects of this debate are very clear: God has taught us not to kill. And that includes killing ourselves," he said.
Photo credit: isak55 via www.shutterstock.com
Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.