Following ACLU of New Mexico Lawsuit, Surgical Center Agrees to Honor Patients’ End-of-Life Wishes

Affiliate: ACLU of New Mexico
February 2, 2006 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of New Mexico
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ALBUQUERQUE – The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico today said it has secured an agreement from the New Mexico Orthopaedic Surgery Center to stop making patients sign away their right-to-die arrangements as a prerequisite for receiving care.

“Patients should be in control of how they end their lives, not companies that are simply trying to reduce insurance costs,” said ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson. “The Center tried to claim it established the policy because of ‘reasons of conscience,’ but they never produced any policy or mission statement to that effect. It was pretty clear to us this was a business decision, not a moral one.”

According to the agreement between the Center and the ACLU’s plaintiff, Harold Folley, the company will delete a clause from its medical procedures consent form that asked patients to acknowledge that the Center would “not honor a request for ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ status and/or Advance Directives or Living Wills.”

In addition to changing its medical consent forms, the New Mexico Orthopaedic Surgical Center and a subsidiary facility, the Las Cruces Surgical Center, agreed to post public notices of the policy changes and distribute the revised form to all of their patients. The main company, United Surgical Partners, Inc., also agreed to donate $5,000 to United Way of Central New Mexico and to pay the ACLU $1,700 in legal fess and costs.

Folley, who receives periodic treatment from the Center for a spinal condition, said: “I am extremely pleased with the outcome of the suit. Many thousands of New Mexicans want to protect their living wills and other advance directives, especially after witnessing the horrible Terry Schiavo ordeal. This agreement will help at least some of them achieve that goal. I respect the orthopedics center for joining with us in the settlement, and I especially respect the ACLU for helping me in making this possible. I certainly could not have done this without the ACLU.”

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