69 Coloradans got aid-in-dying prescriptions during law’s first year, report says | SummitDaily.com

69 Coloradans got aid-in-dying prescriptions during law’s first year, report says

56 of those 69 patients died, but the data doesn’t reveal which ones died as a result of the drugs

Kevin Simpson / The Denver Post

Susan Huschle looks through photos of her late husband, Kurt, who had weighed about 185 pounds before his Feb. 10 diagnosis, died at just 126 pounds.

Sixty-nine Colorado patients were prescribed aid-in-dying medication during 2017, the first year of the law approved by voters, and 50 of those patients filled the prescription, according to a report by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released Thursday.

Although 56 of those 69 patients died, the data doesn't reveal which ones died as a result of the drugs, or even if the deceased had filled their prescription.

But the CDPHE report does shed light on the characteristics of patients who pursued help through the law, and noted that Colorado's data closely reflects that of other states that have medical aid-in-dying laws.

Patients who were prescribed medication had a median age of 75, and men accounted for a majority, 54 percent, to 46 percent women. The primary diagnosis was cancer, at 64 percent, with both amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, and heart disease each accounting for 10 percent and respiratory diseases 9 percent.

Among those who died following a prescription, 93 percent used hospice care. Ninety-six percent of the patients were white. A majority, 63 percent, lived in the Denver metro area and nearly three-fourths died at home.

Prescriptions were written by 37 different physicians, and aid-in-dying medication was dispensed by 19 different pharmacies. A combination of diazepam, digoxin, morphine sulfate and propranolol was most often obtained, at 56 percent, while 42 percent opted for the more expensive secobarbitol.

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