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More Colorado hospitals opting out of physician-assisted suicide

Two more hospital systems say they will opt out of Colorado's new end of life options law.

Two more hospital systems say they will opt out of Colorado's new end of life options law.

Next reported on Monday that Delta County's Memorial Hospital officially announced it will opt out of the program. Now, both SCL Health System and Centura Health will are also opting out of prescribing the lethal medication.

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The law does give doctors the right to refuse prescribing that medication, but there's an argument brewing over whether the actual hospital systems can order doctors who work for them not to offer physician-assisted suicide.

The law specifically says hospitals and health care facilities can tell doctors not to prescribe the medicine if the patient intends to use it on the grounds of the hospital. The law isn't clear, however, on whether a hospital or healthcare system can tell doctors not to prescribe the medicine at all, even if the patient was going to ingest it outside of the hospital walls.

Advocates say the hospitals can't issue policies like that. Both SCL and Centura gave these statements to 9NEWS:

SCL: We are confident in our policy, which underwent a thorough and thoughtful legal and ethical review. Keep in mind this is a new law, and we are trying our best to comply with it and have every intention of complying. We know providers in other states that adopted similar measures grappled early on with the exact interpretation of their regulations, and it appears providers in Colorado are doing the same.

Centura: Centura Health physicians and providers providing services at Centura Health facilities discuss the range of available treatment options with patients to ensure patients are making informed decisions with respect to their care.

Each company has online statements, as well:

SCL: We believe we can provide compassionate care and comfort to our patients so they can live with dignity until the time of natural death, and we have therefore opted out of participation.

SCL Health caregivers will continue to provide other requested end-of-life and palliative care services to patients and families, and they may discuss the range of available treatment options to ensure patients are making informed decisions with respect to their care.

Centura: Centura Health has a long tradition of believing in the sanctity of life, extending compassionate care and relieving suffering. These fundamental values are reflected in the depth and breadth of support and comfort services we offer, including palliative care, hospice care, spiritual care services and mental health services, so patients and their families may live with dignity until the patient’s time of death. As permitted by the statute, Centura Health has opted out of participating in the Colorado End-of-Life Options Act.

It may be up to a court to sort out these details.

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