Treatment Denied: Catholic Hospitals Refuse Care

bricklyn 2012/01/11 16:08:58

Kathleen Prieskorn gasped in shock as her medical nightmare began. Still reeling from the heartbreak of an earlier miscarriage, Prieskorn was three months pregnant and working as a waitress when she felt a twinge, felt a trickle down her leg and realized she was miscarrying again.

She rushed to her doctor’s office, “where I learned my amniotic sac had torn,” says Prieskorn, who lives with her husband in Manchester, N.H. “But the nearest hospital had recently merged with a Catholic hospital — and because my doctor could still detect a fetal heartbeat, he wasn’t allowed to give me a uterine evacuation that would help me complete my miscarriage.”

To get treatment, Prieskorn, who has no car, had to instead travel 80 miles to the nearest hospital that would perform the procedure — expensive to do in an ambulance, because she had no health insurance. Her doctor handed her $400 of his own cash and she bundled into the back of a cab.

“During that trip, which seemed endless, I was not only devastated, but terrified,” Prieskorn remembers. “I knew that if there were complications I could lose my uterus — and maybe even my life.”

Ordeals like the one Prieskorn suffered are not isolated incidents: They could happen to a woman of any income level, religion or state now that Catholic institutions have become the largest not-for-profit source of health-care in the U.S., treating 1 in 6 hospital patients. And that’s because Catholic hospitals are required to adhere to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services — archconservative restrictions issued by the 258-member U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Because of the directives, doctors and nurses at Catholic-affiliated facilities are not allowed to perform procedures that the Catholic Church deems “intrinsically immoral, such as abortion and direct sterilization.” Those medical personnel also cannot give rape survivors drugs to prevent pregnancy unless there is “no evidence that conception has already occurred.” The only birth control they can dispense is advice about “natural family planning” — laborious daily charting of a woman’s basal temperature and cervical mucus in order to abstain from sex when she is ovulating — which only 0.1 percent of women use.

The Catholic directives involve not just abortion and birth control but ectopic pregnancies, embryonic stem cell research, in-vitro fertilization, sterilizations and more. “The problem with [the directives],” says Susan Berke Fogel, an attorney at the National Health Law Program in Los Angeles, “is about substandard care becoming rampant in the U.S., threatening women’s health and women’s lives.”

Catastrophe was only narrowly averted in 2009 when a 27-year-old, 11-weeks-pregnant patient in Arizona staggered into the emergency room of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix with such severe pulmonary hypertension that her doctors determined she would die without an immediate abortion. The ethics committee voted to break hospital policy and advise the woman of her option of a lifesaving abortion. The woman chose to have doctors terminate the pregnancy.

But when the bishop overseeing the Phoenix diocese heard about this, he declared that St. Joseph’s could no longer be a Catholic institution unless it agreed to follow Catholic “moral teachings.” The Bishop forbade Catholic Mass in the hospital’s chapel and excommunicated Sister Margaret McBride — the only nun on the ethics committee.

The Phoenix story drew national outrage, but lesser-known cases of religious doctrine affecting medical care are rampant. In Oregon, a bishop threw out a medical-center director from his diocese for refusing to stop sterilizing patients. In Arizona, a couple raced to a Catholic hospital ER after the wife miscarried one of a pair of fetuses, only to be sent to a secular facility after doctors determined that the twin fetus was still alive — though not viable. And in New York, doctors at a Catholic institution neglected to terminate an ectopic pregnancy (in which the fertilized egg begins to develop outside the uterus) even though the embryo could not possibly survive and the patient faced a potentially fatal rupture of her fallopian tube.

How did we get to the point where 258 right-wing bishops — all (supposedly) celibate male clerics — are prohibiting doctors from practicing medicine and denying women essential reproductive care? The debacle starts with anti-choice legislation. The U.S. Congress started to pass “conscience clauses” pushed by the Roman Catholic Church and anti-abortion forces in the immediate wake of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973. Today, these laws apply not only to physicians and nurses who oppose abortion, but to entire institutions whose “consciences” allow them to withhold medically indicated care.

Even as recently as 2008, the George W. Bush administration issued sweeping regulations to give health-care workers the right to refuse to take part in any procedure that “violates” their religious beliefs. The Obama administration moved to reverse this policy in February (making it explicit that contraception is not covered by conscience provisions), but 47 states and the District of Columbia now allow individuals or entities to refuse women reproductive health services, information or referrals.

You don’t have to be a Catholic to end up at a Catholic hospital that refuses you lifesaving care. A Catholic facility might be the only one in your area, and when you expect treatment you may get dogma instead. “Religion in America should mean that the church runs the church,” says Barry Lynn, the executive director of Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “It shouldn’t mean the bishops are running your reproductive life.”

Read More: http://www.care2.com/causes/treatment-denied.html

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  • He'a: ka'ka:' 2012/01/12 07:16:28
    He'a: ka'ka:'
    Seriously? Where in the Bible does it say that saving the life of a mother is sinful? Or even abortion?
  • bricklyn He'a: k... 2012/01/13 22:45:54
    There is a passage in the bible that tells how a priest should proceed with an abortion for a women who has betrayed her husband.
  • He'a: k... bricklyn 2012/01/16 19:56:07
    He'a: ka'ka:'
    I have yet to find that one. Leviticus?
  • bricklyn He'a: k... 2012/01/18 01:21:05
    There is a lot of disgusting things in Leviticus, but this one is in Numbers.

    Numbers 5:17-21 (New King James Version)
    17 The priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. 18 Then the priest shall stand the woman before the LORD, uncover the woman’s head, and put the offering for remembering in her hands, which is the grain offering of jealousy. And the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that brings a curse. 19 And the priest shall put her under oath, and say to the woman, “If no man has lain with you, and if you have not gone astray to uncleanness while under your husband’s authority, be free from this bitter water that brings a curse. 20 But if you have gone astray while under your husband’s authority, and if you have defiled yourself and some man other than your husband has lain with you”— 21 then the priest shall put the woman under the oath of the curse, and he shall say to the woman—“the LORD make you a curse and an oath among your people, when the LORD makes your thigh rot and your belly swell;
  • marcie 2012/01/11 19:09:51
    This is just another horrible thing the church is doing to control the people . After all, we are looking at an institution who rapes . beats, murder and sells children in their care for prostitution rings, black markets infant adoptions, hides and protects their pedophile murderous clergy and we expect to get good medical care from a church run hospital? I thank God there are none in my area!!! However, I will say and i do not know what denomination if any runs St Joseph's children's hospital In a nearby city but they did give exemplary care to my grandson 12 years ago who was born a downs child with major heart defects. He is at this time a healthy boy thanks to the doctors there. But then he wasn't a pregnant woman about to miscarry either.
  • Bella 2012/01/11 16:25:04
    It's becoming crystal clear that Catholics are losing all moral and ethical reasoning when it comes to human life. All living women and children don't have a chance with this cult.
  • Reichstolz 2012/01/11 16:24:48
    You are perfectly free to build your own hospital and compete in any area you so choose. Much to do about nothing, once again.
  • bricklyn Reichstolz 2012/01/11 18:01:45
    It is not much to do about nothing. It is about the total lack of morality in religious dogma.
  • Reichstolz bricklyn 2012/01/12 14:41:11
    NO it is about free choice to live life and practice medicine as you see fit. Those without morals perform abortions.
  • bricklyn Reichstolz 2012/01/13 22:43:49 (edited)
    When you take your medical llicence you agree to treat everyone without doing any harm and this hospital did just that, they endangered the life of a mother.

    Those without morals go to church. and use the church to rationalize their inhumane behavior.
  • Reichstolz bricklyn 2012/01/14 04:49:14
    You also take an course on medical ethics and what can happen to your license for doing unnecessary procedures. If hypertension was truly the issue in most cases it can be managed medically without removing the fetus. But I wasn't there and neither were you. I do not jump to conclusions surrounding second hand accounts. Those without morals perform unnecessary medical procedures, which 99.7% of all abortions are medically unnecessary.
  • bricklyn Reichstolz 2012/01/14 16:03:25
    It was not a second hand account, it was made by the woman herself to the magazine that reported the story.

    Once the amniotic sac is torn there is no option to save the fetus.

    The woman with hypertension was a completely different case.

    There are no morality in a system ignores women's health.
  • Reichstolz bricklyn 2012/01/14 16:14:15 (edited)
    And information that is told through another person is second hand, sorry.

    I have seen amniotic tares close. As long as amniotic fluid is sufficient the fetus can survive perfectly well.

    There is no morality or legal standing for that matter, in performing medically unnecessary procedures.

    Without reviewing the chart one cannot jump to conclusions.
  • bricklyn Reichstolz 2012/01/14 17:15:22
    I guess you never believe any history, science or medical information either then. The bible would also qualify.

    Perhaps if you were using the correct English verbage I could actually believe your opinion. You really do not know what you are talking about.
  • Tom 2012/01/11 16:12:54
    Like it or not, medical care providers have the right to make their own moral and ethical decisions.
  • bricklyn Tom 2012/01/11 18:06:15
    THey really do not have the right to deny medical help that endangers the life of patient. If this woman had died, crimal charges could have ben laid for negligence and malpractice.
  • Tom bricklyn 2012/01/11 22:15:29
    You are correct -- but she did not die, and therefore the point is moot.
  • He'a: k... Tom 2012/01/12 07:15:17
    He'a: ka'ka:'
    Does that mean I am covered by my moral and ethical belief not to pay them?
  • Tom He'a: k... 2012/01/12 14:49:15
    You have the priviledge of that, yes, but be aware that adult decisions have adult consequences.
  • He'a: k... Tom 2012/01/13 05:54:31
    He'a: ka'ka:'
    As do Doctors who believe that God wants them to let a fellow human being die.
  • bricklyn 2012/01/11 16:09:56
    It is clear that those who are concerned about a fetus are not truly concerned about the life of mothers.

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