Washington State to Require ALL Hospitals to Disclose Reproductive, End-of-Life Policies

Just before Christmas, the Department of Health announced that effective January 23, all hospitals in the state will be required to submit their admission, reproductive, end-of-life, and nondiscrimination policies to the state and post them on their web sites.  Hospitals will have 60 days to develop and post the policies.  The Puget Sound Business Journal (PSBJ) covered the issue here.

Within a week, advocates responded, saying that while the rules are a good start, they don’t go far enough.  The Puget Sound Business Journal covered the response here.  Separately, in a special subscriber-only article entitled “Outlook 2014 Health Care: Catholic affiliated hospitals,” the PSBJ noted that “Public response on the issue has been overwhelmingly on the side of opposition to Catholic hospitals.”

So why am I pointing to links in a business journal about these important patient rights developments?

Because this issue has multiple aspects, and one of them is that with the new rules change, major employers in Washington State will now have the opportunity to review key reproductive, LGBT, and end-of-life policies from major health providers when they make health purchasing decisions.

If you run the benefits program for a major Washington employer, it’s important that you know what each health system does and doesn’t provide before you sign off on health purchase agreements. Your employees and key advocacy groups will be watching.

Here are some of the questions you should be asking:

  • What reproductive health services, including maternity care, abortion, birth control (including long-acting reversible contraceptives), and sterilization (vasectomies and tubal ligations) does your health system provide directly?
  • When a woman presents with a pregnancy-related health emergency, including a miscarriage in process, do physicians have to get clearance from any “ethical” oversight committee or authority before providing medically appropriate care, including pregnancy termination?
  • What are the referral policies for procedures that your health system does not provide directly?  Do referrals for any reproductive health procedures the system doesn’t provide follow the standard format/procedure one would expect for a referral for any other medical service.  (As an example, a whispered “you need to go to Planned Parenthood” is NOT an appropriate medical referral.)
  • What are your health system’s policies with respect to a patient  in a persistent, vegetative state who has executed a legal Advance Directive asking that life-sustaining measures, including artificial nutrition and hydration, be stopped in such a situation?  Will your health system honor such a directive?
  • Does your health system impose restrictions on physicians who might want to help patients exercise their lawful rights under Washington’s Death with Dignity Laws?
  • What are your health system’s policies for accommodating same-sex spouses of patients under its care?  Will your health system recognize and respect the legal rights of married same-sex patients and their spouses?
  • When a woman who delivers a baby wants a tubal ligation, will she be forced to undergo a separate surgery at a nonreligious facility, resulting in unnecessary pain and suffering and far greater expense?


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2 thoughts on “Washington State to Require ALL Hospitals to Disclose Reproductive, End-of-Life Policies

  1. Keith Comess

    Various banks and other financial institutions, along with many airlines and credit card companies, love to portray themselves as “benevolent”, sometimes verging on altruistic, in their advertisements. They are right there, eager to help and they have plenty of happy, prosperous, unblemished people of all ages, ethnicities and genders zealously conveying that impression, right there on the screen or page to prove it to you, the potential client or customer.

    A quick survey will demonstrate that health care facilities, especially for-profit ones, have a real mania for this approach. Given this apparent lust to serve, one would hope that their willingness to engage in “full disclosure” policies, written in simple, straightforward and easily understood terms comprehensible to just about anybody curious enough to read them, will be prominently displayed in all public areas. A cynic might suspect that such statements are unlikely to appear…without some gentle coercion from the government. Why? If current efforts to baffle, confuse and dissimulate both by advertising and public statements are any indication, these facilities will pay dearly for cleaver wordsmiths to craft vague but convincing policy statements which will be open to multiple interpretations. Wouldn’t want to invite attention from the Dept of Health or discourage a potential patient now, would we?

  2. Anna

    I hope the legislators don’t fool themselves into believing that disclosure solves the problem for those of us with no choices. So we know that our wishes will not be honored and we know that there are no non-Catholic health facilities in our area. Whoopie- do. This is a non-solution, a pacifier so-to-say.


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