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Last Rights

A letter from the editor of the October 2018 issue of 5280.

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The conventional wisdom holds that when it comes to death and dying, we treat our pets with more dignity than we do our human family and friends. I’m inclined to agree with that view, and I was relieved that when our 19-year-old cat passed on last year, she was able to do so in her sleep, in our home. In Colorado, however, the way we approach human death is undergoing a transformation that provides more choices to those who are terminally ill and to their loved ones. Proposition 106—which is also known as the Colorado End-of-Life Options Act and was approved by nearly 65 percent of Centennial State voters two years ago this month—is complicated and not without controversy, so 5280 editors Kasey Cordell and Lindsey B. Koehler decided to examine the ramifications of the medical-aid-in-dying legislation. “Death is the one experience that everyone on this planet will share, regardless of gender, race, status, or religious belief,” Cordell says. “Yet it’s also something that, as Americans, we seem to be very uncomfortable with. We wanted to understand why that was the case.” Cordell and Koehler’s feature, “The Art Of Dying Well,” breaks down how the End-of-Life Options Act works and how Coloradans are navigating the myriad obstacles that have come up since it became law. But beyond that, the package looks at our ends through a broad lens—from legal and financial preparations to death doulas to green burial options. “When we started our reporting, we realized the conversation was larger than just what it means to be in control of your death if you have a terminal disease,” Cordell says. “It’s also about what a good death looks like, period.”

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