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CareOregon Urged to Avoid Mergers that Would Limit Patient Access to End-of-Life Care Options

Advocacy Group Says Notice of Limited Access to End-of-Life Care Insufficient for Patients

(Portland, Ore. — March 10, 2020) Compassion & Choices has sent a letter to CareOregon in response to numerous unconfirmed news reports that it plans to merge with Providence Health & Services of Washington, which opposes the end-of-life care option of medical aid in dying. Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act authorizes mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live to request prescription medication they can decide to take if their suffering becomes intolerable and die peacefully in their sleep.

A Catholic healthcare provider, Providence’s hospital policy states: “Providence physicians, employees and volunteers may not knowingly directly participate in or facilitate [medical aid in dying].”

“As a result, we would urge you to seek public comment and input from impacted stakeholders and interested community members on any merger under consideration that would result in reduced patient access to healthcare including, but not limited to, on religious grounds,” wrote Compassion & Choices NW Regional Advocacy Manager Jennifer Parrish Taylor in the letter to CareOregon’s Board of Directors. “A merger with an entity that had such restrictions could violate the values and religious beliefs of patients when they differ from the prohibiting institution, lead to poorer health outcomes, decrease access to evidence-based medical services, lead to lower quality of care for CareOregon patients, compromise a physicians’ ability to practice evidence-based medicine, and deny patients’ autonomy in decision-making.”

“We would like to underscore that the full range of end-of-life options that are prohibited on religious grounds by some healthcare entities represent a significant continuum of end-of-life care that is not limited to the compassionate option of medical aid in dying; they include the refusal of unwanted or non-beneficial medical treatment, such as medically assisted nutrition and hydration, and removal from life-sustaining treatments, such as ventilators,” Taylor concluded. “Patients and their families are unlikely to know or understand that their end-of-life care options have been substantially limited for non-clinical reasons until it is literally and figuratively too late.”

In addition to Oregon, eight other states have authorized medical aid in dying: Colorado, Hawai‘i, Maine, Montana (via state Supreme Court ruling), New Jersey, Vermont, Washington — as well as the District of Columbia. Collectively, 10 jurisdictions represent one out of five U.S. residents (22%).