Aid in dying will not be provided at TMH, however the hospital is still required to create policies around the new Colorado End-Of-Life Options Act, including an emergency department policy.

Photo by Sasha Nelson

Aid in dying will not be provided at TMH, however the hospital is still required to create policies around the new Colorado End-Of-Life Options Act, including an emergency department policy.

Right to die? Not at Craig's hospital

TMH opts out of End-Of-Life Options Act


The Memorial Hospital board voted to opt out of the Colorado End-of-Life Options Act and will not provide patients with medication to aid in dying.

The act allows individuals with terminal illnesses to request life-ending medication from physicians that the patient must administer, according to the law.

To request aid in dying medication, the individual must:

• Be a Colorado resident 18 or older.

• Be able to make and communicate informed decisions to health care providers.

• Have a terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less to live that has been confirmed by two physicians, including the individual's primary physician and a second, consulting physician.

• Be determined mentally capable by two physicians, who have concluded that the individual understands the consequences of his or her decision.

• Voluntarily expresses his or her wish to receive the medication.

Source: The Colorado Bluebook, Colorado Secretary of State

The act also allows doctors or health care organizations to opt in or opt out of the law.

TMH Dr. Kristie Yarmer told the hospital board this month that it doesn't have adequate resources to opt in.

“We would request, as a medical staff, not to opt in to this program,” Yarmer said.

The hospital doesn't have mental health staff nor does it always have enough doctors on hand to provide the the services required by the law, said hospital CEO Andy Daniels.

“We need to make sure our providers know what to do in case we have someone who would chose to do this come into the emergency department,” Daniels said.

The recommendation prompted the hospital board to unanimously opt out.

“As a board we discussed this last month. There are some requirements that we will have to adhere to regardless,” said board Chair Forrest Luke.

Colorado’s End-of-Life Options Act was overwhelmingly supported by voters.

Across Colorado 1.8 million people or roughly 65 percent voted in favor and just under 1 million or roughly 35 percent voting against the proposition.

Of 64 Colorado counties, only 14 opposed the measure. In Moffat County 3,569 people voted in favor and 2,788 against. And in Routt County 10,633 people voted in favor and 3,124 were opposed.

TMH joins roughly a third of hospitals across the state that are opting out for now, according to a STAT report.

“Many hospitals are opting out right now as only temporary rules are in place,” said TMH Vice President of Hospital Operations Jennifer Riley.

The act requires all providers, even those opting out, to create policies around patient notification and emergency department care.

Proponents of the bill, including Compassion and Choices, suggest that final rules or future legal challenges to the bill may disallow health care systems, like hospitals, to opt out.

If final rules, resources or patient demand changes, TMH’s medical staff and board could reverse their decision at a later date.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.


Mark Jacobson 3 months ago

Years ago I would have easily opposed the right-to-die law, but after knowing someone very well who has died from ALS I have very mixed feelings about this. I think the hospital made a very good decision not because of the sanctity of life, which I believe in, but because of the massive psychological impact these situations has on people and their families. If an organization decides to opt in they really do need to be prepared for the mental considerations of the patient and their families on a fairly broad level. People in the situation of ALS, cancer, or other terminal illnesses that make life a living nightmare need counselling and objective consideration as much as possible. Good call, TMH, good call.


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