DENVER (AP) — A Christian-affiliated health system in a court fight over Colorado’s assisted suicide law says the state can’t stop religious organizations from disciplining employees who encourage the option in violation of its beliefs.
In a federal court filing Wednesday, Colorado-based Centura Health argues in part that the U.S. Constitution’s religious freedom protections trumps the state law’s provision that doctors can’t be retaliated against for choosing to help or not help terminally ill patients hasten their deaths.
Centura CEO Peter Banko said Thursday that clarity is needed not just for its hospitals but others as well.
Lawyers for a terminally ill man, Neil Mahoney, and his Centura doctor first went to state court to find out if she could help him because Centura’s policy allegedly violated state law.
Dr. Barbara Morris, a Centura Health primary care and geriatric physician with 40 years of medical experience, said she told Mahoney she couldn’t help him because of Centura’s policy.
She looked into referring him to a doctor affiliated with another hospital, but he would have had to repeat tests as part of a re-diagnosis, which he said he did not want to do.
Morris was fired Aug. 26, just days after she and Mahoney asked a state court to declare that she could not be sanctioned for helping him seek life-ending drugs. She has been unable to care for Mahoney and about 400 other patients, many of them frail and facing their own end-of-life issues.
They want the case moved back to state court.
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