Letters to the Editor

End-of-life care curtailed at hospital now owned by the Franciscan system

Many people are concerned about the consequences to reproductive and end-of-life care by the acquisitions of secular hospitals by Catholic health systems. A recent event dramatically illustrates this and confirms suspicions that changes to these medical services would occur without public transparency.

As a consequence of the overwhelming passage of the Death with Dignity Act, Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton, then a secular provider, issued a policy statement on its website allowing its employed doctors to participate in the act. While not permitting patients to self-administer the medication on its premises, it did allow its physicians to fully counsel patients and write the prescriptions for patients to use at home.

Thanks to an inquiry by Compassion & Choices of Washington, I learned that Harrison Medical Center, newly affiliated with the Franciscan Health System, has changed its policy. In an email this week to the executive director of Compassion & Choices of Washington, the hospital CEO states “Up until our affiliation with the Franciscan Health Services, our employed physicians were allowed to write the prescriptions for the drugs. This changed Aug. 1, 2013, and Harrison Medical Center employed physicians are no longer able to write these scripts while on duty as an employed doc.”

This is completely contrary to the assurance issued by Harrison at the time of the affiliation that there would be no changes to its delivery of health care, and it was done without notice on its website.

At the community meeting held at McMurray Middle School several months ago, we heard representatives from Franciscan and Highline tell us over and over the same thing: nothing will change. Some of us were skeptical then. We are even more skeptical now.

— Kay Longhi
President, Compassion & Choices of Washington

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