Frequently Asked Questions
Palliative care, also known as comfort care, provides pain management, emotional support, and family assistive care for patients who are seriously ill or have life-threatening conditions.
Hospice care is a holistic approach to providing comfort and support to those living out their final days. Hospice agencies provide support to the patient and their families.
Voluntarily stopping eating and drinking (VSED) is defined as refusing food, liquids or artificial feeding to shorten the dying process.
Palliative Sedation is reducing consciousness through medication to decrease severe pain and extreme suffering.
Declining or stopping life-sustaining treatment is when a patient refuses medications or procedures to treat health conditions.
Medical aid-in-dying (MAiD) is the practice in which a terminally ill adult has the option to ingest medication prescribed by their doctor to end unbearable suffering and die peacefully in their sleep.
Continuing current measures.
Volunteers from End-of-Life Options Colorado as well as members of the Board of Directors would be honored to speak with your family and/or professional group. Please contact us with your request via our website: https://endoflifeoptionscolorado.org/contact-us/
Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD) Frequently Asked Questions
The Act allows a terminally ill, mentally competent adult patient, who is likely to die within six months to take prescribed medicines to end suffering and achieve a peaceful death. The patient must be:
- a resident of Colorado,
- acting voluntarily,
- making an informed decision,
- fully informed that they may choose to obtain the aid-in-dying prescription but not take it, and
- capable of self-administering and ingesting the aid-in-dying drug.
The Act authorizes a physician to prescribe medical aid-in-dying medication to a terminally ill individual under certain conditions.
Only applies when an individual is fully informed by the attending physician of:
- Their medical diagnosis and prognosis of six months or less to live if the disease takes its natural course.
- The potential risks associated with taking the medical aid-in-dying medication including the probable result of death following ingestion of the medical aid-in-dying medication.
- All additional feasible treatment alternatives and opportunities, including palliative/comfort care and/or hospice care services.
- The patient’s right to not take MAiD medications at any point in their end of life journey.
No, the law allows for any healthcare provider to opt out of participating in providing medical aid-in-dying services.
The Colorado End of Life Act does not require that a medical provider is when a patient takes the medical aid-in-dying medication. Physicians may be present at the self-administration of the medication if requested by the patient and the physician agrees during MAiD ingestion. However, the patient must self-administer the medication.
There are several ways to find a physician willing to help patients facing terminal illness. The first thing to do is to talk with your treating physicians about their willingness and experience in helping patients with medical aid in dying. If your treating physicians are not able or willing to assist, ask them for a referral to a physician who is able to help. If they are not willing or able to do a referral, please contact End of Life Options Colorado and we will help you with an appropriate referral.
If your regular doctor says no, ask for a referral. If they are not willing or able to do a referral, please contact End of Life Options Colorado and we will help you with an appropriate referral.
The necessary forms are all available on the End of Life Options website at the bottom of the For Clinicians page. In addition, your attending physician can help you with the forms.
The death certificate will list the terminal diagnosis as the cause of death. Medical Aid in Dying is not mentioned on the death certificate.
The cost are variable depending on who the attending and consulting physicians are as well as the patient’s insurance. At present in Colorado, Medicaid does not cover the cost of the physician services nor the medications. Medicare also does not cover these costs. As costs vary, patients and families should inquire at the time of initiation of the process as to these costs.
Voluntary Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSED) Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, VSED in legal in all 50 states under the right to refuse medical treatment (nutrition and hydration are part of this right).
People with terminal diseases who do not qualify for medical aid in dying and/or do not feel that medical aid in dying the right choice for them. This might include those with degenerative diseases like ALS (aka Lou Gehrigs” disease) or Alzheimers type dementia that are known to cause great suffering but are not yet in the terminal phase with prognosis of less than six months. In many cases, VSED may be the best option for those people to maintain control over their symptoms and the timing of their death. Hospice care is often recommended once the VSED process has started.
On average, VSED takes about 10 days, but that timeframe will vary depending on health status and whether the person using VSED has already started the process by cutting down on the amount of food and water they have been consuming (a common occurrence with patients at end-of-life).
The Journal of Pain and Symptom Management recently published the first clinical guidelines for VSED. This article has information appropriate both for medical providers and those considering using VSED as a compassionate end-of-life choice. See the article here.
Hospice Frequently Asked Questions
Those diagnosed with a terminal illness with a prognosis of six (6) months or less and who have chosen to forego curative care are eligible for hospice care. This choice focuses on comfort, care, and symptom management.
Hospice staff members do not stay with the patient 24 hours a day but in most cases, are available for support on the phone 24 hours a day. Hospice patients should have a primary caregiver and the hospice team will provide caregiver support, education, and guidance. In addition, hospice teams include physicians, nurses, nurses aids, social workers, clergy, and volunteers. The hospice team assesses the patient’s needs and provides necessary medication and equipment.
Hospice services, including medical equipment and medications, are covered under the Medicare and Medicaid Hospice Benefits. Most private insurance plans also offer a hospice benefit as well. Your hospice agency will be able to help you figure out what is covered.