Religious superstition is dictating medical policy at Catholic hospitals, and placing women’s lives at risk. Doctors working at these hospitals are forced to follow policy set by Catholic bishops, even if that policy results in substandard medical care.
Recently a Michigan woman was denied proper medical treatment three times by a Catholic hospital because it would have conflicted with the church’s teachings. The woman was 18 weeks pregnant when her water broke prematurely. She rushed to the nearest hospital, a Catholic hospital, where medical personnel did not, and could not because of policy, tell her that she had little chance of a successful pregnancy, that she was at risk if she tried to continue the pregnancy, and that the safest course of care in her case was to end it. The Catholic hospital simply sent her home.
She came back the next day, bleeding and in pain, and again was turned away. Again, she was not told of the risks of trying to continue the pregnancy, or what her treatment options were. She returned yet a third time—by now suffering a significant infection. The Catholic hospital was prepared to send her away once more, when she started to deliver. The baby died within hours of being born. At 18 weeks, it never had a chance.
As a consequence of the horrendous treatment women face in Catholic hospitals, the ACLU filed suit in federal court charging that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops forces hospitals to deliver what amounts to substandard medical care.
Directly at issue are the bishops' "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services," a set of rules created by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to govern the provision of medical care at Catholic-run hospitals. The Directives are put above medical standards of care, and among other things forbid Catholic hospitals to perform abortions, even if the pregnant woman's life or health is at risk.
Across the country, women face the risk of mistreatment as a result of the Directives. studies show that over half of OB/GYNs working in Catholic-sponsored hospitals have run into conflicts with the Directives.
The bishops aren't doctors, and yet they issue rules that tie doctors' hands, preventing them from giving their patients full information about their health care options and, in some cases, preventing them from providing medically appropriate care. That's not right, and it's time to end it.
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