Wednesday, July 18 , 2018, 12:21 am | Mostly Cloudy 65º

Your Health
A Noozhawk partnership with Cottage Health

Santa Barbara County Hospitals Opting Out of Assisted-Suicide Law

Santa Barbara County hospitals plan to support patients seeking information on California’s End of Life Option Act, but their physicians will not write prescriptions to terminally ill patients who want to end their lives. 

The law, which went into effect Thursday, allows medical staff to prescribe lethal doses of medicine to terminally ill patients 18 years of age or older, who have six months or less to live.

A hospital setting is not required, but the patient must be able to self-administer the medication and have the capacity to make medical decisions voluntarily.

The staff at Cottage Health, which operates hospitals in Santa Barbara, Goleta and Santa Ynez, will not participate in the distribution option the new law authorizes.

“The staff has given careful consideration to whether to allow this end-of-life option to be carried out within our hospitals,” said Maria Zate, manager of public relations and marketing at Cottage Health.

The Cottage Health Bioethics Committee will continue to work to support patients facing a terminal illness, Zate said.

This group includes community members, physicians, nurses and social workers who help navigate medical decisions. 

The board of directors of Lompoc Valley Medical Center unanimously voted this week for the facility’s doctors to turn their back on providing the medication, however, LVMC caregivers will provide all other requested end-of-life services to patients.

“There are obviously strong feelings on both sides of this issue,” board President Raymond Down said. “I think one of the things the board wanted to do was make sure we were in concert with the medical staff majority and what they wanted to do, without infringing upon the rights of those physicians who may feel that it’s appropriate in some point in time to deal with a patient of their own, with that patient’s desires.”

According to the bill, nothing prevents a physician from providing information about the act when the patient requests it.

Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care will comply with the law as an organization that will “educate and support” patients, according to Easter Moorman, director of marketing.

VNHC will not administer or obtain the drugs, but will work cooperatively with the patient’s attending physician and provide social workers to consult about the aid-in-dying law.

“We will continue to provide our patients with physical, emotional and spiritual care throughout the dying process no matter what options they choose,” said Lynda Tanner, president and CEO of Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care.

Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria will continue to operate, as the law permits, in accordance with its statement of common values. The health system guided by Catholic values does not participate in activities intended to hasten the end of life.

“Respecting the dignity of persons requires reverence at every stage of life’s journey from conception to natural death,” according to the statement.

The law was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last October, making California the fifth state in the nation to allow its residents who face a terminal illness to control their death.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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