Catholic Hospital Faces Lawsuit After Firing Employee Who Planned to Kill Patient in Assisted Suicide

State   SPUC   Oct 4, 2019   |   1:39PM    Denver, Colorado

A Catholic hospital in Colorado is facing a legal challenge after firing an employee who planned to kill a patient by assisted suicide.

Centura Health, a Catholic healthcare network based in Colorado has been challenged by court action after dismissing employee, Doctor Barbara Morris, who wanted to prescribe lethal drugs to a 64-year old patient, Neil Mahoney, in order to end his life.

Morris was fired on the 26th of August 2019, after she asked a state court to declare that Centura Health’s faith-based policy was in violation of the Colorado state law which allows doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to patients in order to end their life.

Centura Health follows the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDCHCS) for their guidelines.

The principles state: “Euthanasia is an action or omission that of itself or by intention causes death in order to alleviate suffering. Catholic health care institutions may never condone or participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide in any way. Dying patients who request euthanasia should receive loving care, psychological and spiritual support, and appropriate remedies for pain and other symptoms so that they can live with dignity until the time of natural death.”

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A legal challenge against Centura Health is now being relocated to the state court, with the issue of religious freedom expected to be addressed. Centura Health’s position is the state cannot prevent religious organisations from disciplining employees who disagree with their belief systems.

The Archdiocese of Denver spokesman, Mark Haas said: “Asking a Christian hospital to play any role in violating the dignity of human life is asking the Christian hospital to compromise its values and core mission. This is not the hospital forcing its beliefs upon others, but rather having outside views forced upon it.”

Freedom of conscience and religious freedom in healthcare

The moves against Centura Health have arrived only months after the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalised new rules which restored freedom of conscience and religious freedom in the healthcare setting. The new rule ensures that healthcare entities and professionals cannot be bullied out of the healthcare field for refusing to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life.

SPUC Scotland Director of Communications and Campaigns, Michael Robinson, described the action being taken against the Colorado hospital as “deeply troubling” and said the situation illustrates “the great confusion around values in medicine and the role of conscience.”

Mr Robinson said: “The situation at Centura Health is alarming. Healthcare facilities which uphold the dignity of every human life have a right to exist, and to ensure their staff do not undermine the values of the institution. There is evidence of a creeping culture of death which is infecting many medical professions. Centura upholds values that all medics should applaud and that the pro-life community must continue to promote vigorously.”