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Understanding Centura Health’s position on Colorado EOLOA

Centura Health is a community of respect, love, and support for patients and their families at every stage of life, including when they are facing suffering and the reality of death.

We are committed to providing health care services consistent with our Christian values. The Colorado End-Of-Life Options Act permits health care providers to opt out of assisting qualified patients in medical aid-in-dying. Many Colorado hospitals and physicians have opted out of the Act based upon a variety business and moral/value reasons.

For Centura Health, we opted out of the Act based on our Christian beliefs to promote and defend the sacredness of every human life. We are asking the court for clarity so that the law works for all of those individuals and organizations who choose to opt-out.

We believe the freedom of religion doctrine at the heart of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment supports our policies and is the right of every American.

  • October 7, 2019 Legal Filing – Media Statement

    The original claim, now abandoned by Dr. Morris, was about her ability to provide medical aid-in-dying to a patient while employed by Centura Health. The patient who brought this claim with Dr. Morris is no longer a party to the lawsuit. The latest filing by Dr. Morris now positions this case only as an employment contract issue.

    Dr. Morris publicly disavowed the values of Centura Health and actively condoned medical aid-In-dying, in violation of Centura’s policy. Dr. Morris signed her Employment Agreement with Centura expressly agreeing that she would not provide services that are in violation of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.

    Simply stated, this case is now about whether an employer can fire an employee for violating its policies.

  • Mahoney V. Centura FAQs

    Understanding Centura Health’s position on Colorado EOLOA

    Centura Health is a community of respect, love, and support for patients and their families at every stage of life, including when they are facing suffering and the reality of death.

    We are committed to providing health care services consistent with our Christian values. The Colorado End-Of-Life Options Act permits health care providers to opt out of assisting qualified patients in medical aid-in-dying. Many Colorado hospitals and physicians have opted out of the Act based upon a variety business and moral/value reasons.

    Centura Health opted out of the Act based on our Christian beliefs to promote and defend the sacredness of every human life. We are asking the court for clarity so that the law works for all of those individuals and organizations who choose to opt-out.

    We believe the freedom of religion doctrine at the heart of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment supports our policies and is the right of every American.

    Q1: Why are aid-in-dying related services prohibited by Centura Health?

    A1: We are committed to providing health care services consistent with our Christian values. The Colorado End-Of-Life Options Act permits health care providers to opt out of assisting qualified patients in medical aid-in-dying. Many Colorado hospitals and physicians have opted out of the Act based upon a variety business and moral/value reasons. Centura Health opted out of the Act based on our Christian beliefs to promote and defend the sacredness of every human life.

    Q2: What does Centura Health do when patients are certain that they want aid-in-dying medication?

    A2: When a patient is faced with a diagnosis of advanced, life-limiting illness, we inform the individual of Centura Health’s treatment options that may include comfort care, palliative care, hospice care and pain control. If a patient has questions about services beyond what Centura offers, we encourage and expect them to ask their health care provider directly. Centura acknowledges the rights of patients to seek aid-in-dying under Colorado law elsewhere. If a patient declines the treatment options available at Centura and requests a transfer to a facility outside of our system, we will transfer the patient in accordance with his or her wishes.

    Q3: Why did Centura Health prevent Dr. Morris from providing aid-in-dying related services to her patient?

    A3: All our employed caregivers agree to abide by Centura Health policies and procedures. Dr. Morris signed her Physician Employment Agreement in which she agreed she would not provide any services “that are in violation of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” including any intentional hastening of a person’s natural death. She publicly disavowed the values and beliefs of Centura and actively condoned and participated in aid-in-dying care for one of her patients, in violation of Centura’s policy. She has asked the court to compel Centura to allow her, as an employee, to participate in aid-in-dying in violation of Centura’s policy.

    Q4: Why was Dr. Morris fired?

    A4: Dr. Morris publicly disavowed the values and beliefs of Centura Health and actively condoned and participated in aid-In-dying care for a patient, in violation of Centura’s policy. She has asked the court to compel Centura to allow her, as an employee, to participate in assisted suicide, in violation of Centura's policy. Dr. Morris signed her Physician Employment Agreement with Centura expressly agreeing that she would not provide any services “that are in violation of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” including any intentional hastening of a person’s natural death. By her own public admission, she confirmed that her desire and intent was in conflict with Centura’s values.

    Q5: Did Dr. Morris discuss with Centura Health her desire to assist a patient in aid-in-dying in advance of filing this lawsuit?

    A5: No, she did not.

    Q6: Was Dr. Morris simple asking a question about Centura Health aid-in-dying policy?

    A6: No. Dr. Morris publicly disavowed the beliefs and values of her employer and has asked a court to force Centura Health to allow her to participate in aid-in-dying.

    Q7: Did she know Centura Health’s policies?

    A7: Yes. Dr. Morris signed her Physician Employment Agreement with Centura Health expressly agreeing that she would not provide any services “that are in violation of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” including any intentional hastening of a person’s natural death. By her own public admission, she confirmed that her desire and intent was in conflict with Centura’s value.

    Q8: Do Centura’s Ethical and Religious Directives violate a physician’s right to practice?

    A8: No. Dr. Morris and all physicians who are employed by Centura Health are advised in their employment agreements of the religious values and beliefs that guide the work and services we offer in our ministry. No hospital could conceivably offer all services that exist within the realm of existing medical tests, treatments, and services. If a physician feels strongly about providing a specific service, she needs to be employed at a facility that offers that service.

    Q9: A judge has rejected Centura Health’s request to move Dr. Morris’ lawsuit to federal court from state court. Is this a legal loss for Centura?

    A9: We firmly believe that the premise of the legal action brought against Centura Health by Neil Mahoney and Dr. Morris violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment freedom of religion clauses. We are prepared to proceed with the case in state court.

    Q10: Why did Centura Health ask the case be heard in federal court?

    A10: We asked that this case be moved to Federal Court because it involves First Amendment issues and federal employment law issues.

    Q11: Do you want the entire law invalidated as unconstitutional?

    A11: We are not asking this of the court. We acknowledge the right of other organizations whose beliefs and values allow for aid-in-dying to provide those services. Patients who desire these services are free to obtain them from those organizations.

    Q12: What are you asking to be clarified in the law?

    A12: Centura Health has asked the court to confirm that the First Amendment to the Constitution protects it from application of the Colorado EOLOA in a way that would require it to offer or allow its employees to participate in services that are inconsistent with its beliefs and values.

    Q13: Do you want the law overturned?

    A13: Because Centura Health is a religious organization, we want a determination that the Colorado EOLOA cannot be applied to it in a way that would require it to offer or allow its employees to participate in services that are inconsistent with its beliefs, values and policies.

    Q14: Do you want the law to not apply to you but to apply to everyone else?

    A14: We want the opt-out clause to work fully for those wanting to opt-out. We do not want the law to apply in a way that requires any individual or entity that opts out to violate its beliefs or values.

    Q15: Have other Centura patients requested aid-in-dying support?

    A15: Yes, they have. We support the right of any patient who is certain he or she would like aid-in-dying medication to transfer care to another provider and facility. We are committed to providing health care services consistent with our Christian values that promote and defend the sacredness of every human life.

    Q16: How have Centura doctors and caregivers reacted to this case?

    A16: While this issue can only be answered completely by each individual, as a whole, this case has not been a significant issue for our doctors. They all have signed employment agreements that are clear about the services we provide for end-of-life care and they are fully aware of Centura’s Christian values.

    Q17: Have doctors besides Dr. Morris quit or been fired because of her case?

    A17: No.

    Q18: What do you say to the 65 percent of Colorado voters that supported the End-of-Life Options Act?

    A18: We say what we’ve said since our founding: We are committed to providing health care services consistent with our Christian values. We believe the freedom of religion doctrine at the heart of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment supports our policies. And, we believe, a majority of Coloradoans support every American’s First Amendment rights.

    Q19: What is Centura Health’s relationship with the Catholic Church?

    A19: St. Anthony Hospital, the hospital that employed Dr. Morris, is a Catholic hospital within the Church's health care ministry.

    Q20: Why should an individuals’ and physicians’ views be overridden by the views of a religious ministry?

    A20: Their views are not being overridden. Other organizations whose beliefs and values allow for euthanasia or assisted suicide are free to provide those services and patients who desire them are free to obtain them from those organizations.

  • Centura Op-Ed by Peter Banko, CEO

    Centura Op-Ed
    Colorado Springs Gazette

    By Peter D. Banko, President and CEO

    Everyone deserves a birth and a death filled with grace. Death isn’t exactly the most comfortable dinner table topic. It is very intimate and personal. Facing the reality of death means confronting the possibility of suffering, pain, isolation and fear.

    Peter Banko, CEOCentura Health – a ministry of the Roman Catholic and Seventh-day Adventist churches – is currently facing a direct court challenge to our long-standing Mission of extending the healing ministry of Christ in the Colorado End-Of-Life Options Act (EOLOA). This dialogue around death and suffering directly intersects with two even more uncomfortable topics – religion and politics.

    Most churches and faith traditions – Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity – have common formal positions and/or basic teachings about this legal, cultural, and spiritual issue. Every human life is sacred. All humans deserve dignity and respect. There is a divine law that transcends human law.

    Our ministries throughout Colorado and western Kansas are communities of respect, love, and support for patients and their families at every stage of life, including when they are facing suffering and the reality of death. We recognize that our views may not be shared by others. For our organization, physician assisted suicide is morally unacceptable and we will not participate in it in any way.

    The EOLOA, voted into law in November 2016, permits health care providers to opt out. Many Colorado hospitals and physicians have opted out of the Act rooted in their own morals and values along with the Hippocratic tradition to do no harm. We believe that the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment firmly support Centura Health’s decision to opt out. We are asking the court for clarity so that the law works for those individuals and organizations who choose to opt out based on religious beliefs.

    To align behaviors and actions with our Mission and Core Values, we ask all our caregivers to agree to abide by a code of conduct. For our physician partners, we ask them to agree in a written, legal agreement to a similar code which, for our Catholic facilities, includes not providing any services “that are in violation of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” including any intentional hastening of a person’s natural death.

    There has been very little conversation in all this about the patient, Mr. Cornelius Mahoney. There are no adequate words to express how sorry we are and the sadness we feel for Mr. Mahoney with his terminal diagnosis. We so wish that he and his family were not facing this frustrating challenge. We would be truly honored to walk with Mr. Mahoney in his journey by fully supporting him with treatment as well as palliative, comfort, pain and hospice care in the Christian tradition.

    Centura Health’s founding mothers and fathers handed down to us an enduring Mission, Core Values, and religious foundation over the course of 137 years. We will not compromise who we are and the founding ideals we stand upon today. We are always here for you.

    Peter D. Banko, President and CEO
    Centura Health.

    Banko, Peter (2019, September 18). GUEST COLUMN: Court case challenging ministry's mission. The Gazette, https://gazette.com/opinion/guest-column-court-case-challenging-ministry-s-mission/article_1edd514a-d958-11e9-a9aa-0bb2bb053ff1.html