TESTIMONY OF MICHAEL J. NORTON PRESIDENT AND GENERAL COUNSEL THE COLORADO FREEDOM INSTITUTE
Regarding Colorado House Bill 16-1113, “Concerning The Protection of Human Life Beginning at Conception"
My name is Michael J. Norton. I am president and general counsel of the Colorado Freedom Institute. The Colorado Freedom Institute is a nonprofit legal organization dedicated to restoring religious freedom to Coloradans and to people across America. Colorado Freedom Institute fights for the religious liberty principles of our Nation’s Founders in the public square, in our schools, and for our churches.
Today, I am also privileged to represent Colorado Family Action. The missionof CFA is to advocate for laws and policies that will make Colorado a safe, prosperous, and wholesome climate for families.
Senate Bill 16-025 and its identical State House counterpart House Bill 16-1054 amount to dangerous licenses to kill human beings. All human life, particularly the lives of those who are elderly, infirm, or disabled, should be preserved and protected. Enactment of these bills is bad public policy, bad for the State of Colorado, and bad for Colorado families.
These bills demean the integrity of the medical profession by protecting doctors and others who prescribe suicide for a human being. Fear of losing control and engaging in activities, not pain relief, are significant motivators in requests for doctor-prescribed suicide. Misdiagnoses or inaccurate prognoses can lead to faulty decisions to request doctor-prescribed suicide.
Passage of these bills would demean the lives of patients and expose them to exploitation by those who make a personal judgment that these patients are better off dead. “Cost savings” by eliminating some human beings another finds to be uselessto society is not a legitimate reason to permit doctor-prescribed suicide. Such a utilitarian policy would corrupt the medical profession and its ethical code that calls on doctors to serve life and never to kill. Moreover, these bills, if enacted, amount to a form of eugenics which would affect the most voiceless or marginalized in our society – the poor, the frail elderly, and racial minorities.
Doctor-prescribed suicide always results in a slippery slope, and if passed, these bills will be no exception. All lives are valuable and to be protected. It is paramount that society and our legal system protect its more vulnerable members. The suggestion that doctor-prescribed suicide is a dignified way to die is offensive to many Coloradans who die with dignity each year, and to their families andcaregivers. These bills make the State of Colorado an agent of death instead of a protector of life.
The sound public policy reasons to reject these bills are outlined in the attached policy brief my colleagues and I authored last year for the Centennial Institute.
Beyond these sound public policy reasons to oppose doctor-prescribed suicide, here are some problems with these bills:
1. This year’s bill is even more dangerous than last year’s proposal as the language in these current bills eliminates all documentation, reporting, and enforcement requirements, making it almost impossible to track abuse or prosecute those who operate outside the law as it has no reporting requirements
2. These bills establish total immunity for the doctor or anyone else involved in prescribing suicide to a patient. Even the 2015 version of this proposal did not go this far. It did not “limit civil or criminal liability for negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct.” These bill extend immunity to any person, including anyone who is present at the time of the suicide.
3. These bills eliminate the requirement in the 2015 version that the local coroner verify with the attending doctor that the doctor-prescribed suicide process has been followed. Moreover, there is no reporting requirement in these bills, including a requirement of documenting the administration of suicide in the patient’s medical record. The climate of secrecy that will surround doctor- prescribed suicide will shield doctors and others from accountability at the expense of patient protection.
4. The actual cause of death – doctor-prescribed suicide – would not be listed on an individual’s death certificate. Instead, what the cooperating doctor determines to be the individuals “terminal illness” would be listed as the cause of death. That would not only be medically false, it would add to the climate of secrecy surrounding doctor-prescribed suicide.
5. Passage of these bills would result in the creation of a doctor-prescribed suicide “cottage industry” in Colorado. Legalization of marijuana has done enough damage to families and others who love Colorado and want to make ittheir home. One can only imagine the “store fronts” attended by cooperating lawyers, doctors, and potential witnesses and filled with “aid-in-dying” medications, acceptable legal forms, and the like.
These bills are not about “freedom,” “choice,” or “dignity.” These bills are about doctor-prescribed suicide, plain and simple – except that, if these bills are enacted, suicide will now have the Colorado government’s stamp of approval. These bills, if enacted, would over-ride the historic tradition of Western civilization for thousandsof years to preserve and protect human life. The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the preservation and protection of life is a legitimate andvaluable state interest. No case stands for the proposition that life does not deserve to be preserved and protected if someone does not think it to be valuable.
It is neither a constitutional nor a civil right to commit suicide. It is certainly neither a constitutional nor a civil right for someone who desires to commit suicide to enlist the assistance of others in doing so. The State should not encourage suicide nor become an accomplice to it by authorizing doctor-prescribed suicide.
We urge you to reject this bill.