GOLDEN, Colo. ― The call came the last week of September, when Neil Mahoney could still stagger from his bed to the porch of his mobile home to let out his boisterous yellow Lab, Ryder.
Rodney Diffendaffer, a clinical pharmacist in Longmont, 45 miles away, had left a message.
Your prescription is ready, it said.
Mahoney, a once-rugged outdoorsman now reduced to bones, his belly swollen with incurable cancer, sighed with relief. After months of obstacles, the frail 64-year-old finally had access to lethal drugs under Colorado’s 2016 End of Life Options Act, one of a growing number of U.S. state laws that allow terminally ill patients to obtain medications to end their lives.
Even as an increasing number of U.S. states have legalized aid-in-dying laws, exercising that option is challenging for patients in a country where most large hospital systems have deep religious ties and the religious right is powerful. One in 6 hospital patients is now cared for at a Catholic hospital, according to the Catholic Health Association. Aid-in-dying is a legal right, but desperate patients are often left feeling they are doing something terribly, morally wrong.
Centura Health Corp., the Christian-run hospital where Mahoney sought treatment for his cancer, regards the practice as “intrinsically evil,” citing the ﬁrm’s governing rules, the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. The hospital has barred its doctors from following the state law. In August, it fired his physician, Dr. Barbara Morris, for consulting with Mahoney with the aim of carrying out his wishes.
As his condition deteriorated over the summer, Mahoney left the lawsuit, with Morris still unable to assist him. She sued the hospital for wrongful dismissal; the case is pending. In December, Centura officials filed a countersuit that says the hospital’s actions are protected by the U.S. and state constitutions’ freedom of religion guarantees. more at link