A Colorado doctor who sued Centura Health, a Catholic and Seventh-day Adventist network of hospitals, for the right to dispense aid-in-dying medication was fired last week for violating a provision of her employment that prohibited her from encouraging assisted suicide or euthanasia.
On August 21, 2019 Dr. Barbara Morris and one of her patients, Corneilius “Neil” Mahoney, a 64-year-old with stage four cancer filed a lawsuit requesting that the court declare “that Centura may not lawfully prohibit Dr. Morris from, or sanction nor penalize Dr. Morris for, providing [medical aid-in-dying] services to Neil [Mahoney], including but not limited to, prescribing AID medication to Neil for use somewhere other than at a Centura Facility.”
Even though Colorado passed the “Access to Medical Aid In Dying” act in 2017, many hospitals and clinics have refused to allow physicians to perform the procedures on moral and faith-based grounds.
All physicians employed by Centura are required to sign an agreement that they “would not provide any services ‘that are in violation of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.’ As a matter of religious doctrine, those Directives declare that suicide and euthanasia are never morally acceptable options and prohibit participation or cooperation in any intentional hastening of a person’s natural death, including through ‘an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil.'”
Centura filed documents on Friday, August 30, asking that the initial case be removed from state to federal court, and that the courts recognize that Centura Health’s right to practice its faith includes the right not to participate in assisted suicide.
By encouraging her patient to commit suicide, “Dr. Morris has, within her employment, encouraged an option she knew was morally unacceptable to her employer” and this “warranted the termination of her employment.”
This is one of the first cases to test the ability of religious hospitals to require their employees to refuse to participate in physician-assisted suicide.