Voting for aid in dying was easy, but one Colorado couple struggled toward a graceful death |

Voting for aid in dying was easy, but one Colorado couple struggled toward a graceful death

One year after measure went into effect, their experience reflects confusion and uneven outcomes

By Kevin Simpson / The Denver Post
Susan Huschle, whose husband, Kurt, used the aid-in-dying law as a terminal cancer patient on July 16, 2017, twists their wedding rings, which she now wears on her right ring finger. Huschle says that she read widows will often move their wedding bands from their left to right ring finger.
AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

A year ago in November, when Susan and Kurt Huschle cast their ballots among the two-thirds of Colorado voters in favor of the state’s aid-in-dying law, they viewed the measure with the personal detachment of a distant what-if.

Three months later, Kurt faced a terminal diagnosis of a rare bile-duct cancer. Pain mounted exponentially, blasting through his medication. His once-sturdy frame rapidly diminished. And suddenly, the theoretical idea of ending his life with a doctor-prescribed medication became a very real option — one he desperately wanted to have in hand.

“We voted for it,” Susan recalls, sitting at the kitchen table where she and her husband first heard the news that he didn’t have long to live. “But we didn’t know anything about it.”

On July 16, exactly seven months after the law went into effect, Kurt took aid-in-dying medication and died, at 58, in his bed at the couple’s Highlands Ranch home. But the process, from paperwork to prescription and finally to practice, bred frustration, stress, uncertainty and ultimately a wife’s panic in his final hours.

Their experience reflected the gap between concept and realization that has characterized the law, which took effect one year ago Saturday. While physicians, pharmacists and hospice workers sorted out their roles in the process, patients sometimes struggled to connect with willing doctors, procure medication and implement their final wishes.

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