In April, Herb Myers was able to help his wife Kathy take the prescribed medication allowed by Colorado's aid-in-dying law. She died in April. He posed for this photo at the CPR studios Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

Herb Myers of Aurora says that right after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Colorado's aid-in-dying law into effect last December, he and his wife Kathy began researching what it would allow them do. After years of suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, she had less than six months to live.

Myers told Colorado Matters that one of the biggest hurdles they faced was that Kathy met the criteria required under the law, but finding two doctors to sign off on her prescription-- as required under the law -- was harder than they anticipated. But, he says, the comfort his wife experienced when she died made the process worth it.

In April, Herb Myers was at Kathy's bedside when he says she peacefully passed away. Here are some highlights from the conversation on Colorado Matters, followed by a full transcript.

On the drug the couple decided to use:

“Well, Seconal is what she used. It's very expensive, but it's very gentle and very quick, or at least it was for her. Now, the other drug in my research, they had had problems with. It's a Morphine cocktail and it's Morphine and three or four other drugs that I cannot pronounce. We decided on the Seconal and we got the call that the prescription was ready to be picked up and I went to Colorado Springs to pick it up.”

On when they knew the time was right: 

“We had talked about it the weekend before, and then the Saturday night before I got some  sports drinks, because it's very bitter, and so she decided which one she wanted to use  and the next day ... she called her hospice nurse. And her hospice nurse had offered to be there in case there was a problem and because they didn't know how this was going to work either. When she came in, she told Kathy I've heard this can take several days so they didn't even know about it. Confusion around this is astronomical. People just don't know what's going to happen with it.”

On how he prepared the drug:

“It's 100 gel caps and you have to open them up and take the powder out. And I  thought it would be very easy, but I tried with a razor blade and they were crumbling. So I ended up learning to roll them between my fingers to break the seal and then it would come apart, and then the powder's packed in pretty tight, and I had to scrape them with a drill bit to get the powder out. I didn't want to lose any of it, because I didn't want it to not work and have her end up in worse shape.”

On Kathy’s final moments:

“When she called her hospice nurse is when I really thought maybe this is going to happen. There was still that maybe in my mind, and I mixed it and I put it on a little, she had a hospital bed there in the front room, and I put the bottle on the tray in front of her, and it sat there for a while, so I put the top back on. And I thought maybe she's not going to. And then she told me to take it off, and she drank it down very quickly because you have to. If you fall asleep before you get it all in, it may not work.

Our youngest daughter was on one side of her bed holding her hand, and I was on the other  side. And she laid back on her pillow, and within about two minutes, the grip on my  hand let up. And I was kind of watching to see if there was any kind of distress, and she never tightened down on my hand, and that would be a normal thing if you're in pain, would be to grip, and she never did that. She just laid back until her grip loosened and I looked up, and I never saw her take another breath.”

Read The Full Transcript

Ryan Warner: This is Colorado Matters from CPR News. I'm Ryan Warner. A year ago, a law  went into effect that allows  Coloradans with terminal illnesses to end their own lives.  Coloradans like Kathy Myers, who suffered from COPD, a progressive lung disease.

[Voice of Kathy Myers: Every day I wake up. I don't want to be awake. It hurts. It's painful.]

RW: This spring, Myers became one of the first  Coloradans to take advantage of the state's End-of-Life Options Act. It was not an easy journey, says her husband Herb. He and Kathy met when they were about three years old and Herb joins me. Welcome to the program.

Herb Myers: Good morning.

RW: Kathy was speaking with 9News in that clip last January.

HM: Yes.

RW: How is it to hear her voice?

HM: This morning on the way in, I heard it and I got choked up. It's good to hear her voice and also at the same time a little hard.

RW: A little hard?

HM: Mm-hmm. 

RW: You actually had approached Nine News back in January. You say you're not someone who likes media attention, but you were desperate. Why?

HM: Because she wanted it and I couldn't find it. Once the law passed, on the Monday after the governor signed it in, I started making phone calls. Nobody knew anything about it and it was just a big roadblock.

RW: That is finding a doctor who could prescribe the medication?

HM: Yes.

RW: This was unchartered territory.

HM: Yeah. I figured, I'll make a call to the state, they'll give me a list of doctors and I'll have it.

RW: No such list existed.

HM: It still doesn't. It's easier now, but it's not easy.

RW: In trying to find a doctor, you went essentially to the press and that eventually worked.

HM: Yes. I went to, I called Tom Martino.

RW: He has a radio program.

HM: Yes. I figured well, maybe he's got somebody listening that could help and he didn't, but he got us hooked up with 9News and they came over and did three interviews.

RW: What doctor came forward?

HM: Well, I can't say his name because he has gotten out of it. The number two doctor retired and then after that, he had so much difficulty in finding the number two doctor, because it takes two doctors, that he gave up out of frustration.

RW: Two doctors have to sign off that the patient is terminal and qualifies under the specifics of the law?

HM: Yes.

RW: It remains difficult, I understand, to find doctors?

HM: Yes. It's getting easier, but it's still not easy. I left my job in January. My employer was kind enough to let me have the next three months off and I spent a lot of time on the computer and a lot of time on the phone. Compassion & Choices is a great reference for people wanting to know more about this, but they don't give you doctors' names either.

RW: This is an advocacy group that supported the passage of the law in Colorado. What was the conversation like with the doctors who eventually signed on? What questions did they have for you and your wife?

HM: Well, they came out, the first doctor came out the day he called and he examined her. He spent probably a good hour, hour and a half with her talking to her, finding out her wishes and making sure that she was competent to make this choice.

RW: That is part of the determination.

HM: Yes.

RW: Is this person able to make this decision for him or herself, and this doctor clearly decided that your wife was capable of making that decision.

HM: Yes.

RW: The second doctor then has to sign off on it and eventually did. Were you both on the same page about this journey? Had you decided as a couple this was the right course, or were there times you were at odds?

HM: No. Back in the old days, it was always we would pull the plug for each other, if  somebody got sick and was gonna be in a vegetative state. And then when this came up, we were both supporters of it.

RW: You both voted for it?

HM: Yes.

RW: You also have kids.

HM: Three.

RW: You raised three kids together. How big was the decision in the family? Was that just between husband and wife? Did you involve the larger family?

HM: No. Last Christmas, we all got together and that's when she told her intentions to all the kids, although I think they probably knew it ahead of time. They were okay. They saw what her quality of life was and how she was struggling, so none of them could say no.

RW: As you said, you took time off of work. Essentially, the last three months of your wife's life?

HM: Yes.

RW: You did a lot of research. You eventually both decided on the medication that she would use when she decided it was time?

HM: Yes.

RW: Tell us about the drug.

HM: Well, Seconal is what she used. It's very expensive, but it's very gentle and very quick, or at least it was for her. Now, the other drug in my research, they had had problems with. It's a Morphine cocktail and it's Morphine and three or four other drugs that I cannot pronounce. We decided on the Seconal and we got the call that the prescription was ready to be picked up and I went to Colorado Springs to pick it up.

RW: Let's talk about her quality of life to that point. What was it like and how did it lead her to make these decisions?

HM: Well, she was diagnosed with it probably 10 or 12 years ago.

RW: This is COPD?

HM: Yes. We ended up buying a house that everything was on one level because she couldn't do steps anymore and then it just constantly got worse and worse. She was a very compassionate person and volunteered for Colorado Pug Rescue and once the pugs got to be too much for her, she went to kittens and then sadly, the kittens got to be too much for her. She left the house maybe two or three times in the last two years.

RW: Animals were her great passion?

HM: Yes. After the kids grew up. The kids came first.

RW: And after she could no longer take care of animals, that was a real reduction in her quality of life.

HM: Well, yeah. Probably a year, year and a half before, is when she had to give those up, so her quality of life, it was basically as long as her air tube would go from the concentrator, 50 feet maybe. Her life was down to about two or three rooms at the house. She loved her gardens and couldn't do that anymore. She spent most of the time
in bed.

RW: As we heard in the introduction, had really lost the will to live.

HM: No. I don't think so. She lost the battle with her disease. She would have loved to have kept on living and seen our grandson grow up and keep doing all the things she did, but that just wasn't in the cards for her.

RW: You have talked in the past about the relief she felt, simply in having ...

HM: Oh yeah.

RW: The medication on hand. You talked about the drug that you chose and the mere possession of it, not its use. It resulted in a shift in her.

HM: Oh yeah. Her spirits lifted. She actually put on four pounds. That shocked me. For the time we had it and it was tucked away in a place, she felt very good. She knew that she didn't have to go through the very end. 

RW: Yeah. Say more about why you think just having the medication results perhaps in a shift. 

HM: Just knowing that it's there. Knowing that you don't have to go through the very end stages. Knowing that you're in control and knowing that it's going to be for her a very easy end. Not everybody gets that. 

RW: Talk to me about the decision to use the medication. It has to be self-administered. That's part of the law. 

HM: Yes, yeah. 

RW: And when did you know the time was right? When did she know? 

HM: We had talked about it the weekend before, and then the Saturday night before I got some  sports drinks, because it's very bitter, and so she decided which one she wanted to use  and the next day, about 3:00 or 4:00, she called her hospice nurse. And her hospice nurse had offered to be there in case there was a problem and because they didn't know how this was going to work either. When she came in, she told Kathy I've heard this can
take several days so they didn't even know about it. Confusion around this is astronomical. People just don't know what's going to happen with it. 

RW: I'm curious. When you got a hold of the drug, does insurance pay for that or do you-

HM: No. 

RW: So that's out of pocket. Okay. 

HM: Yes. 

RW: And tell us more about this drug and just even the brass tacks of preparing it. 

HM: Okay. Well it's 100 gel caps and you have to open them up and take the powder out. And I  thought it would be very easy, but I tried with a razor blade and they were crumbling. So I ended up learning to roll them between my fingers to break the seal and then it would come apart, and then the powder's packed in pretty tight, and I had to scrape them with a drill bit to get the powder out. I didn't want to lose any of it, because I didn't want it to not work and have her end up in worse shape. 

RW: What was going through your mind at that time? 

HM: I was still having trouble believing it. When she called her hospice nurse is when I really thought maybe this is going to happen. There was still that maybe in my mind, and I mixed it and I put it on a little, she had a hospital bed there in the front room, and I put the bottle on the tray in front of her, and it sat there for a while, so I put the top back on. And I thought maybe she's not going to. And then she told me to take it off, and she drank it down very quickly because you have to. If you fall asleep before you get it all in, it may not work. 

Our youngest daughter was on one side of her bed holding her hand, and I was on the other  side. And she laid back on her pillow, and within about two minutes, the grip on my  hand let up. And I was kind of watching to see if there was any kind of distress, and she never tightened down on my hand, and that would be a normal thing if you're in pain, would be to grip, and she never did that. She just laid back until her grip loosened and I looked up, and I never saw her take another breath. 

RW: You're listening to Colorado Matters. I'm Ryan Warner. And on what is roughly the anniversary of the passage of Colorado's End-of-Life Options Act, we're speaking with Herb Meyers of Aurora about he and his wife, Kathy's journey, as Kathy sought to end her own life. She suffered from a progressive lung disease and she was one of the first Coloradans to take advantage of this new law. Others have reported not so serene ends. 

HM: Yes. 

RW: Yeah. 

HM: Mostly with the morphine cocktail. There have been problems with it. It does work, but it's not the peaceful kind of end that Kathy got. But Kathy-

RW: What have you heard that can go wrong? 

HM: Convulsions. Stomach upset. Now I did read about burning of the mouth, but I haven't heard anymore about that. It's not as smooth and easy as the Seconal, but it's a quarter of the price. 

RW: What would you do to make this law better? 

HM: I think the law's pretty good the way it stands. The only thing I would want to see is some kind of a provision for Alzheimer's patients, because when they're within six months, they can no longer make the decision, and my father died of Alzheimer's. And my brother died of complications from AIDS. So I've seen a couple really nasty deaths. Kathy's gave me a lot of comfort in the fact that she didn't have to go through those things. But something for Alzheimer's patients because when they can still make the decision, their health is not bad enough to actually take it. 

RW: Are you in communication with other families that have questions about this? 

HM: Yes. 

RW: Have you found yourself in a way the de facto expert in some regards? 

HM: Well, I'm sure no expert, but I've had about 10 families contact me and just with questions. Most of them are looking for a doctor, and I can't give them that information.

RW: I want to go back to that. Right, because you say that it's still really difficult to find a physician. Why do you think that is? 

HM: Yes.  Well, it goes against everything that doctors are normally taught, and so there's a lot of hesitation on their part. I was at one hospice conference, and one of the attorneys for the hospice said we're waiting to see who gets sued first, before they got involved with it. The protections in the law are pretty good. You're not going to have any legal complications. And if somebody has moral conflicts with it, I definitely would not want them to be involved in it. I don't want to force this on anybody. 

RW: Right. And there's no obligation that doctors participate in the law. 

HM: No. 

RW: You know critics of the law had several arguments. One was religious, that it's up to God when life should end. Another came from some in the disability rights community, that it could be a slippery slope. The law might be misused to end a life that others deemed wasn't worth living.  Was there any point in this process where you thought, gosh, this could be exploited? 

HM: With any law, somebody'll find a way around it. I'm sure there's ways to do something bad with it, but I think its intent and the way it's gone so far has been good. 

RW: Nor, as you had described the process, is it easy or fast to go through. 

HM: No. No. And it still isn't, but it's better than what it was a year ago. 

RW: Do you have any regrets? Are there days you wish that Kathy had not ended her life? 

HM: Well, I wish she had been healthy, but my big regret was actually not letting the  pharmacist mix it up. He had offered to, but I didn't think, I wasn't sure she would use it,  and I didn't know what the shelf life was once it was mixed. So I spent an hour and a half mixing it up, and I could have spent that hour and a half with her. 

RW: Thank you for sharing your story. 

HM: Sure. 

RW: Herb Myers' late wife, Kathy, ended her life in April under Colorado's End-of-Life Options Act. The law went into effect a year ago this month, and we'll be right back with Colorado Matters from CPR News.