Colorado recently became the fifth state to allow medical aid in dying. The passage of Proposition 106, or the End of Life Options Act (the “Act”), is a catalyst to encourage Coloradans to think about and plan for potentially life-threatening situations.
To exercise rights under the Act, an individual must be 18 years of age and terminally ill, meaning he or she has six months or less to live. Two physicians must agree that the illness is terminal. The individual must be mentally capable of making healthcare decisions and fully informed of all options for end of life care. Once these criteria are met, the individual is required to take the medication without any assistance.
A large concern for many Coloradans is the effect of the Act on their life insurance and whether the self-administration of aid in dying medication, pursuant to the Act, will violate the terms of their policy and possibly void any payout. The Act provides that the cause of death on the death certificate of one who chooses to use the Act is the related terminal illness and that a qualified individual’s act of self-administering aid in dying medication does not affect life insurance or annuity policies.
Currently, we believe that using the Act will not void a life insurance policy that has exceeded the time limitation for a payout as a result of suicide. If a patient has a policy that has not exceeded that time limitation, then we have concerns that using the Act would possibly void a payout on the policy, despite the language of the statute. For now, this issue is undecided but we suspect that policy carriers may have reason to contest such a payout. Every life insurance policy is different, and you should consult with an attorney and your life insurance company to confirm your decision.
Many of our clients have asked how Proposition 106 relates to other estate planning documents, such as living wills, advanced medical directives (AMDs), and medical durable power of attorneys (MDPOAs). Since the Act requires that a terminally ill patient is mentally capable of an informed decision, and that he or she make an oral request to a physician, it is not possible for an individual to draft their AMD or MDPOA with a provision to opt-in in the future if he or she qualifies for medical aid in dying.
AMDs and MDPOAs are still useful tools for planning for illness and incapacity before they arise. An AMD is a legal document that tells doctors what life extending measures, if any, you choose to receive. A MDPOA designates a trusted person to make medical decisions for you when you cannot make them for yourself. It is important to talk to an attorney about preparing these documents to plan for situations where you may not be competent enough, due to illness or unconsciousness, to refuse medical treatment.
Proposition 106 gives Coloradans additional control over how they live and the circumstances surrounding their deaths.