A third Southwest Colorado hospital has opted out of providing services under the aid-in-dying law, which was approved by Colorado voters by a 2-to-1 margin in November.
On Tuesday, the Upper San Juan Health Service District voted 4-3 to not offer the services at the Pagosa Springs Medical Center, according to Jesse Hensle, manager of marketing and communications.
Pagosa Springs Medical Center joins Southwest Colorado’s other two major hospitals – Mercy Regional Medical Center in Durango and Southwest Health System in Cortez – that will not prescribe medication to terminally ill patients who wish to voluntarily end their life.
The legislation – Proposition 106 – passed with 64.5 percent of the state vote or more than 1.765 million residents – and was signed into law Dec. 16. Since, about one-third of hospitals across the state have opted out.
The Pagosa Sun reported a public hearing attended by about 10 individuals was split on the matter. Those against aid-in-dying legislation often cited religious reasons.
“God will be looking at how you vote,” a person in attendance said.
Before the vote, The Pagosa Sun reported that board member Jim Pruitt pointed out that Archuleta County residents voted 4,442 to 2,655, about 63 to 37 percent, in favor of passing Proposition 106.
“We’re sitting on a public board,” Pruitt said. “There’s a lot of philosophical differences, I mean, that each of us around this table maybe have, but as a public board and responsive to the public, this was a clear mandate that this be an option that’s available for folks.”
Advocacy groups for aid-in-dying legislation contend there was specific language in the law that does not give health systems the right to restrict physicians from prescribing the medication. Many intend to challenge the decision.
Most of the opposition stems from religious and Catholic health care groups. According to STAT, the Archdioceses in Denver spent $1.6 million to campaign against Proposition 106.
While several private physicians in the region have pledged to offer the service, three of Southwest Colorado’s largest health providers choosing to abstain leaves limited options for care for locals.
Hensle said the Medical Executive Committee – a board of staff physicians – voted 5-1 to opt out of the program, but recommended a revisit of the question next year.
“Being a growing facility, we’re just not ready to be the one initiating this process,” he said,
The board for Southwest Health System, too, expressed it would be open to revisiting the matter in the future.