Answering Your Questions: Reproductive Health, End-of-Life Care, Discrimination
PeaceHealth is a private, nonprofit, Catholic-sponsored health care system bringing exceptional medicine to communities throughout the Northwest, always with a concern for the most vulnerable. PeaceHealth is committed to providing health care services to any person seeking care whether they have health insurance coverage or not.
Questions about Reproductive Health
PeaceHealth physicians and health care providers respect the organization’s heritage and its policies which apply to beginning and end-of-life issues while carrying out its mission of healing and compassionate care. The following questions and answers provide information on how reproductive health is addressed at PeaceHealth. Because these are sensitive issues that everyone at PeaceHealth takes very seriously, the staff includes professionally credentialed ethicists who are available when requested to work with individual patients, families and their doctors to help meet special needs and circumstances.
Q: Does PeaceHealth allow procedures such as vasectomies, D&Cs and abortions in its facilities?
A: Vasectomies and tubal ligations are performed at PeaceHealth facilities when, in private consultations between a patient and a physician, it is determined that such a procedure is medically indicated. Elective abortions are not performed. Regarding ectopic pregnancy, PeaceHealth employs the best practice standard of care to remove the pathological tissue that threatens the life of the mother. Dilation and curettage (D&C) procedures are performed when medically indicated (for example, after a miscarriage), but not for the purpose of voluntarily ending a pregnancy. Patients requesting services PeaceHealth does not provide are referred to outside agencies for further information on available options.
Q: What is the policy on referrals? Would medical records be transferred to another hospital or organization for treatments not sanctioned at PeaceHealth?
A: PeaceHealth does not refer directly to providers who perform procedures prohibited at PeaceHealth facilities (i.e. abortion, physician-assisted suicide). However, PeaceHealth does refer to appropriate health care agencies for assistance in obtaining information and identifying a provider. PeaceHealth will provide the appropriate patient records, in accord with HIPAA regulations, to health care providers offering services not sanctioned at PeaceHealth, just as it does for all other referrals to physicians and hospitals outside the PeaceHealth system.
Q: Would contraceptive prescriptions be made available to patients requesting them, and could they be filled in a PeaceHealth pharmacy?
A: Decisions concerning family planning, including contraception, are made privately between patients and their doctors; contraceptive prescriptions may be provided, and they can be filled at a pharmacy operated by PeaceHealth. Emergency contraception (also known as Plan B or “Morning-After Pill”) is offered as medically appropriate for cases of sexual assault following a negative pregnancy test. RU486, an abortion-inducing drug, will not be provided by a PeaceHealth facility.
Q: Do doctors in PeaceHealth facilities include a full range of family planning options when counseling patients?
A: Doctors are not limited in what they may discuss with patients. PeaceHealth does not interfere in private doctor-patient conversations. PeaceHealth does not promote or condone contraception, but contraception may be prescribed if medically indicated.
Q: Can PeaceHealth facilities be used by groups from the community for health education classes which include reproductive health topics?
A: PeaceHealth is supportive of community health care education and allows use of its facilities for many kinds of educational programming including, for example, health care policy debates, public forums to discuss health issues, and classes focusing on treatment of specific health conditions and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It would not allow use of PeaceHealth facilities to promote policies in direct conflict with PeaceHealth’s.
Questions about End-of-Life Care
PeaceHealth is committed to supporting patients at the end of life by providing and supporting patient self-determination through the use of advance directives, offering hospice, mental health support and other supportive care to patients and families, and offering effective pain and symptom management as well as other social, spiritual and pastoral support and services.
Q: Does PeaceHealth honor Living Will instructions, even if they conflict with Catholic teachings?
A: Advance directives (“Living Wills”) are typically consistent with Catholic teachings, and PeaceHealth encourages their use. PeaceHealth will honor an advance directive that is drafted by a competent patient and executed by an appointed durable power of attorney, as required by law.
Q: Can a terminally ill patient choose to discontinue the use of feeding tubes?
A: Yes, under appropriate circumstances. PeaceHealth holds that death should not be directly hastened or postponed; at the same time PeaceHealth regards patients as central to the decision-making process, assuring them that they will receive all appropriate palliative care and be able to refuse unwanted, burdensome treatment. PeaceHealth honors requests for withdrawal of therapies that from a patient’s perspective are more burden than benefit, including hydration and nutrition.
Q: Are terminally ill patients allowed to exercise their legal choices, including consultation and/or referral to physician-assisted suicide?
A: PeaceHealth patients are free to pursue therapies such as physician-assisted suicide, but PeaceHealth will not participate in the practice. PeaceHealth will not abandon patients, including those who may choose to consider physician-assisted suicide (see answer above). PeaceHealth will not interfere with a patient’s choice to exercise this legal right. As allowed by law, PeaceHealth chooses not to participate in physician-assisted suicide itself.
For more than 120 years, PeaceHealth’s mission and values have called it to serve all patients regardless of race, color, creed, sex, sexual preference, national origin, disability or ability to pay.
Questions about Discrimination
Q: Does PeaceHealth treat members of the LGBT community differently or unfairly?
A: No. PeaceHealth employs members of the LGBT community, and has always cared for all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation. PeaceHealth respects the dignity and appreciates the worth of each person, as demonstrated in its compassion, caring, and acceptance of individual differences.