Albany Times Union: Commentary: Hospital merger imperils options for end-of-life care

October 13, 2021

An excerpt from The Albany Times Union commentary, “Hospital merger imperils options for end-of-life care,” by Compassion & Choices President and CEO Kim Callinan, published October 13, 2021:


In August, the Times Union published an alarming story reporting that end-of-life care will not change as a result of a merger between Ellis Medicine and St. Peter’s Health Partners, according to Ellis Medicine’s president and CEO, Paul Milton, who cited St. Peters’ palliative care programming as the reason. Simultaneously, Milton noted, “You need to comply with the ethical and religious directives of a Catholic organization,” a reference to St. Peter’s.

Unfortunately, Milton’s statement directly contradicts the latest Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. The directives specifically state:

“In principle, there is an obligation to provide patients with food and water, including medically assisted nutrition and hydration for those who cannot take food orally. This obligation extends to patients in chronic and presumably irreversible conditions (e.g., the “persistent vegetative state”) who can reasonably be expected to live indefinitely if given such care.”

What does this statement mean in practice?

If you get in a car accident and suffer irreversible brain damage, you could be forced to live indefinitely on a ventilator, regardless of whether you have an advance directive and a healthcare advocate indicating that is not what you would want…

In short, ideologically governed hospitals are in control of end-of-life care decisions — not you.

They also are not obligated to tell you in writing their policies on care restrictions. All too often, they make decisions without making patients aware that they are being denied compassionate options…

Currently, New York state law does not require health care mergers to consider equal access to all services. Fortunately, new legislation — the New York Hospital Transparency Act — is a start to creating transparency. It would engage communities through an open, public process, require entities to demonstrate health care transactions will benefit New Yorkers, and maintain a holistic picture on the impact of consolidation in the state, through regular reviews of changes in access, cost and health equity.

Proposed hospital mergers, acquisitions and consolidations must be accountable to their communities. It will require careful evaluation, review and monitoring if we are to save our end-of-life care services.


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