Though Southwest Health System officials announced earlier this month that Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez will opt out of Colorado’s aid-in-dying law, CEO Kent Rogers said Friday it will continue to amend its policy.
“We wanted to make sure we can do this in a way where we can comply with the law,” he said.
Southwest Memorial’s board of directors unanimously voted to opt out of the law, according to a Jan. 5 news release.
Rogers said hospital leaders wanted to make sure they had appropriate family services in place, and to understand the company’s role in the new law.
Making those preparations would allow people in the company to respond appropriately to an aid-in-dying situation if such a case were to arise, he said.
When a person makes the decision to end his or her life, it should be made with his or her physician, not handed down from an organizational policy, Rogers said.
“I fully expect us to work on a policy that would support our physicians if they choose to participate,” he said.
Most assisted suicides take place in a person’s private home, rather than an acute care facility, Rogers said.
Some area physicians who don’t work for Southwest Health may decide to provide the service to their patients, he said.
Rogers, who has worked in the health care industry for 25 years, said society has come a long way in accepting death as a part of life. There are other models of end-of-life care the hospital employs, such as hospice and palliative care, he said. Those types of care help patients who have a serious illness or are near death be more comfortable, he said.
In Montezuma County, Prop. 106 passed with 59.25 percent of the vote, 7,334 to 5,045. Urging a person with a terminal illness to request aid-in-dying medication or tampering with a person’s request for the medication now carry criminal penalties under the law.
Rogers said the law moved forward quickly. Hospital officials expected it to be signed into law in January, but Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the bill in December. State board of health members asked lots of questions at a Jan. 18 hearing, and they are working through the details of the new policy.