Death with dignity in Durango

To the editor,

You may recall that 65 percent of Coloradans voted for medical aid in dying to make Colorado the fifth state in the nation to legalize this important option for end-of-life care. Did you know that this option may not be available to you in Durango or nearby towns? Mercy Medical Center boasts wonderful accomplishments including five star ratings, “A” grades and being one of “100 Great Community Hospitals.” It also has a “new, state-of-the-art hospice residence” but fails to mention that it does not provide the legal medical procedure for which a significant majority of local residents voted. The fact that the hospice does not provide complete end-of-life care is not the issue since the law allows for hospitals and physicians to opt in or out based on their values.

The problem is that Mercy is prohibiting its physicians from writing prescriptions that would provide their dying patients with this legal, compassionate option. In Oregon and Washington, the first two states to legalize “death with dignity,” the vast majority of patients use their prescription at home while surrounded by loved ones, and 90-plus percent of them are in hospice care. Colorado law prohibits employers from retaliating against physicians

who participate as long as the prescription is not intended for use on the hospital campus. If you have a Mercy physician and want this important option, ask your doctor if they will help you if the need arises. If they say no, ask for a referral to someone who will. For complete information on the Colorado law and resources for patients, visit www.compassionandchoices.org/colorado/

– Dr. Lauri Costello, Durango