DENVER (CN) – A terminally ill Colorado man diagnosed with cancer and his doctor filed a lawsuit against the Centura Health Corporation for prohibiting its doctors from prescribing aid-in-dying medication.
The Colorado End-of-Life Options Act was passed by 65% of voters in 2016, but allows medical facilities to opt out if they do not wish to allow patients to end their life on the premises.
But the 13-page lawsuit filed in Arapahoe County on Wednesday, contests that Centura’s policy of prohibiting physicians from prescribing any aid-in-dying medication regardless of where it is taken “impermissibly limits and controls a physicians’ independent professional judgment concerning the practice of medicine.”
In addition to CHPG Golden Primary Care, Centura maintains 17 hospitals throughout Colorado and Kansas.
Until his diagnosis of adenocarcinoma earlier this year, Cornelius Mahoney was a healthy 64-year-old resident of Golden employed at Welby Gardens where he “enjoyed working with plants and flowers.”
Now he has between four and 14 months to live, depending on the success of his chemotherapy. Adenocarcinoma forms in the glands lining organs. Mahoney suffers from tumors in his liver, his chest and the place where his stomach meets his esophagus, making it difficult to eat.
Since witnessing the death of his own mother, Mahoney said he “is disturbed by how difficult and prolonged the dying experience can be.”
His doctor, Barbara Morris, specializes in geriatric medicine and supports Mahoney’s decision, but is barred by the Catholic hospital’s policy from prescribing aid-in-dying medication to any patient.
Mahoney can transfer hospitals, but according to the lawsuit, he likes Centura’s staff, trusts his doctor and “does not want to spend his final days searching for a new health care provider to obtain aid-in-dying.”
He is currently taking morphine and oxycodone to manage the pain, and declined to use a feeding tube because “he feels it will diminish the quality of his life and would be humiliating.”
Mahoney and Morris are represented by Steven Wienczowski with the Denver firm Foster Graham Milstein & Calisher. End of Life Liberty Project executive director Kathryn Tucker is also advising the plaintiffs.
Centura Health Corporation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mahoney and Morris are asking Judge John Wheeler to bar the hospital association from penalizing any doctor who prescribes aid-in-dying medication.