Women's healthcare affected by growing number of Catholic hospitals
February 18, 2016 7:27 PM   Subscribe

The Guardian reports on an accusation by a former Muskegon County, Michigan health official claiming that a Catholic healthcare provider forced five women between August 2009 and December 2010 to undergo dangerous miscarriages by giving them no other option. Catholic hospitals must follow the Ethical Health Directives issued by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and with consolidation in health care providers, more and more Americans are affected. posted by MoonOrb (42 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Doctors and nurses that put an employment contract above federal law and best medical practices when treating a patient deserve to be sanctioned or lose their license
posted by Grumpy old geek at 7:39 PM on February 18, 2016 [35 favorites]


"Affected"? More like "severely compromised."

I like the part where they impose Catholic doctrine on helpless suffering patients without their consent. Hell, why not baptize 'em right there and make them swear fealty to the church before they can get any treatment at all? Let those who refuse to convert die on the doorstep like the sinners they are. Go right back to your Dark Ages roots.

I really want a lever to pry the horrible grasping claws of these medieval-minded fucks out of our healthcare system (and everyone's lives in general, especially women). I'm generally a pro-whatever-you-want person when it comes to religion, but this stuff makes me sick and angry.
posted by emjaybee at 7:39 PM on February 18, 2016 [39 favorites]


I live three blocks from a Catholic hospital, and I want some sort of medic alert bracelet that says that I don't want to go there unless it will literally kill me to go the extra mile to the secular hospital. I'm curious if anyone makes such a thing.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:40 PM on February 18, 2016 [18 favorites]


Literally every single local doctor who is both a) covered by my insurance and b) reachable via mass transit is in one of those Catholic conglomerates. Thankfully there's also an abundance of Planned Parenthood locations nearby, and those are the ones that get all of my monies.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:53 PM on February 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


This is super enraging.
posted by JenMarie at 7:55 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Honestly it makes me too angry to look for links but there were several recent cases in Northern California of hospitals refusing to perform tubal ligations on women post-birth despite their stated wishes. It's so fucked up.
posted by JenMarie at 7:59 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


The Stranger coverage from a few years ago about Catholic Hospitals in Washington.

The compromise at the hospital local to me in Seattle is that when the Catholics took over, Planned Parenthood opened a clinic attached to the hospital via a Skybridge. This is nice, but it's a necessarily tenuous arrangement. If the leadership of the Hospital sours on it, or if the political winds of the state shift and start passing restrictions like Texas has, it falls apart.

The whole thing is deeply unacceptable.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:17 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


I don't see why this even happens, catholics (or anyone fire that matter)would be outraged if a Jahovas Witness doctor refused to do blood transfusions.

Anger. Anger. Anger.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:18 PM on February 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm not opposed to religious hospitals, per se, because the hospital that saved my mom's life last year has a Shabbos elevator. On the other hand, they didn't refuse her multiple blood transfusions on the grounds that she's Episcopalian. I understand the historic benefit of religious hospitals, but denying care because of faith has made them anachronistic.
posted by Ruki at 8:18 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'd like to see for-profit motives and religion removed from healthcare altogether. Is that too much to ask?
posted by JenMarie at 8:22 PM on February 18, 2016 [36 favorites]


In America, very much yes.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:32 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


There have been numerous stories about the increasing takeover of hospitals by Catholic organizations but nothing I've seen in print has investigated the underlying motivation for it. I personally believe just about everything is about money. And since it's no longer a secret that at least one bishop, now Cardinal Terry Dolan, when he was head of the Milwaukee archdiocese, tried to hide money in the cemetery fund to avoid giving it up in pedophile lawsuits, I am highly suspicious. Until recently, the conservative Dolan, now head of the New York archdiocese, was head of the Conference of Bishops, which is currently revising its rules for health care facilities and expected to tighten them even more. I live in Washington state, which for somewhat historical reasons, has had more facilities taken over by Catholic entities than any other state. We're pretty blue here and not likely to go the way of Texas as one of the commenters worried, but it's suspicious enough that we have our very own CatholicWatch web site to keep tabs on it all. While I love Francis, his recent public statement reiterating the Church's position on abortion — it's "evil" in all cases — does not ease my mind. I don't believe it at all unlikely that some of the more conservative American Catholic authorities will see it as God's work to prevent as many abortions as possible. They've certainly had their fingers and their purses in the politics of it.
posted by kemrocken at 8:51 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wow, way to sacrifice yet more moral authority for petty political motivations, US Bishops. I will give them some credit for pushing me away from any sort of faith at least a few years earlier than I would have otherwise. But that's little solace for the pain and suffering that they needlessly cause.
posted by Llama-Lime at 8:51 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


“There is no ideal way of handling these situations,” Doublestein concluded.

Yes, there is, you ass! Protect. The Life. of the Mother. Even if you value fetuses over women, protecting the life of the PERSON WHO CAN MAKE ANOTHER FETUS, is the only logical thing to do. Why do women always fall lower on the "right to life" scale for these people than the "preborn"? (Rhetorical question.)
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:52 PM on February 18, 2016 [46 favorites]


Yeah so Holy Father I appreciate you trying to save us from Trump and all but maybe focus on getting your own house in order.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:01 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


My insurance makes the local "Dignity Health" (formerly "Catholic Healthcare West") hospitals my default facilities, and while I never did and never will have a 'woman's poblem', I have had my serious doubts about their dealing with another issue The Church interferes with, the potential End of Life situation, especially considering that my Advanced Directive is, in brief, "when in doubt, pull the plug". And considering my mother died from complications of a stoke, I was initially very concerned about everything! But I never lost consciousness and the much-hyped tPA treatment seemed to bring a near-immediate improvement, so there was never a time when it was anything close to an issue (and would I be here commenting if i had?).

One thing I definitely noticed was a lot of posters with their corporation's chosen 'branding': "humankindnessTM". (Don't you just hate aggressive branding, even containing the word 'kindness'?) There are hospitals in Dignity's chain of 40 that are still affiliated with various Catholic orders, but not the ones in my neighborhood, which had been acquired from a for-profit chain a dozen years ago, but before they dis-affiliated from the church and changed their name. Two non-religious, non-profit hospitals... I feel lucky. But I do wonder about their choice of new name, since in medical matters "Dignity" seems most often to be part of the phrase "Death With Dignity". Here's hoping I won't find out for some time.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:02 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Groesbeck, the public health official that supplied these documents, has been working on similar issues for some time.

Sadly, it doesn't look like local (Michigan) media has picked up this report yet.
posted by el io at 9:13 PM on February 18, 2016


Malpractice lawsuits vs medical professionals that place an employment contract above the health of their patients is probably the best way to end this shit.

I think the Catholic Church still does a lot of good things but there is a very strong streak of social conservativism especially in some US diocese that has resulted in faith organizations interfering with medical practictioners in ways that should be prevented by maintaining some sort of a legal firewall between the hospital administrators and the Catholic church hierarchy.
posted by vuron at 9:47 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Here in Ireland the Catholic church was so scared by Roe v. Wade that they successfully had their dogmatic ban on abortion inserted into the constitution in 1983. The article mentions Savita Halappanavar, but there are other women who have died because of this amendment. There's an election here next week, and the removal of the ban has become a live issue.

This has prompted the bishops to pop up and wave their croziers in the direction of the politicians and electorate in general, tut-tutting at anyone who might dare interfere with their precious constitutional amendment.

Which reminded me how insidious religious control of healthcare can be, as one of the more outspoken recently minted bishops managed to get a lung cancer drug trial halted when he was on the board of a hospital "because female patients who get could get pregnant would have to take contraceptives under the treatment." Who knows what else they're quietly and continuously interfering with in the background.
posted by o seasons o castles at 10:01 PM on February 18, 2016 [27 favorites]


I'm not a Catholic nor even Christian and I don't see why my health should be determined by those who are, based on their religious beliefs.

If they don't want to do anything to disrupt their religious teachings and beliefs, then they need to not accept federal or state money for patient care, and every patient coming to them for care should have to, let's see...have to read a pamphlet and watch a video about what kind of care they will get and not get, and then they should have to wait at least 24 hours before going in for care or surgical procedure. Because we just want patients to be fully informed, right?
posted by rtha at 10:13 PM on February 18, 2016 [31 favorites]


Malpractice lawsuits vs medical professionals that place an employment contract above the health of their patients is probably the best way to end this shit.

So...a woman, or women, dying? That's the best way to "end this shit"?
Because the article mentions having to appeal already. Now having to be tried in the press.

I think the Catholic Church still does a lot of good things but there is a very strong streak of social conservativism especially in some US diocese that has resulted in faith organizations interfering with medical practictioners in ways that should be prevented by maintaining some sort of a legal firewall between the hospital administrators and the Catholic church hierarchy.

Some sort of legal firewall? Of course the church still does some good things. These understatements trivialize the gravity of this article. Hand wavy.

I wonder, and likely in the worst of ways: Were all these cases minorities? What I read is a culture of privilege unwilling to risk "souls" for poor people's lust.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 10:15 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


From the USCCB guidelines:

"48. In case of extrauterine pregnancy, no intervention is morally licit which constitutes a direct abortion."

Am I reading this right -- that a Catholic hospital can't end an ectopic pregnancy? If so, that's downright cruel.
posted by dw at 10:35 PM on February 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


So...a woman, or women, dying? That's the best way to "end this shit"?

It still wouldn't work. There are plenty of Americans who have no problem with women dying from a wide variety of widely preventable things, most of which (domestic violence, risky pregnancy, illegal abortion) are obviously just desserts , right?
posted by sobell at 10:35 PM on February 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


I think the Catholic Church still does a lot of good things but there is a very strong streak of social conservativism especially in some US diocese that has resulted in faith organizations interfering with medical practictioners in ways that should be prevented by maintaining some sort of a legal firewall between the hospital administrators and the Catholic church hierarchy.

That ship sailed when the Democrats caved and granted special exemptions on parts of the ACA to the Catholic Church; cow's out of the barn, etc. As far as legalities go, religion found a small spot in healthcare, from which it can do an end run around separation of church and state (law). As small as it is, it is a useful point into which to insert a wedge and hammer away at all aspects of healthcare that conflict with theocracy, particular with respect to women's health.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:41 PM on February 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


My town has two hospitals. In one you can't get a vasectomy, even if your doctor is literally across the street from the hospital. Nope, across town for you. Outrageous.
posted by readyfreddy at 10:52 PM on February 18, 2016


Because of this crap in Seattle, I crossed two large and good employers off my list during a recent job hunt. My partner cares very, very deeply about women's rights in healthcare, and there's no way in hell I'm working for Swedish or Providence while they maintain these medieval standards. The organization I did wind up working for still has a religious denomination in the name, but is openly and emphatically divorced from it and working to formally change the letterhead. They made that point to me several times during the interview process, like they were afraid I'd be scared away if I thought I would answer to a church. And they were right.
posted by skookumsaurus rex at 11:01 PM on February 18, 2016 [12 favorites]


Am I reading this right -- that a Catholic hospital can't end an ectopic pregnancy? If so, that's downright cruel.

According to the Director of Education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, methotrexate is morally objectionable because: “the difference in how the baby dies is, in fact, critical. There is always a difference between killing someone directly and allowing someone to die of indirect causes.”
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:07 AM on February 19, 2016


I'm not opposed to religious hospitals, per se, because the hospital that saved my mom's life last year has a Shabbos elevator.

Shabbos elevators are provided in many secular hospitals for the benefit of Jewish patients and visitors. It has nothing to do with the religious affiliation of the hospital and it certainly doesn't involve imposing Jewish beliefs on the medical care that is delivered in those hospitals.

Doctors and nurses that put an employment contract above federal law and best medical practices when treating a patient deserve to be sanctioned or lose their license.

Doctors and nurses are people just like you and me. They work to support themselves and their families. Some of them live in places where all the jobs in healthcare as far as the eye can see are in Catholic health systems (like some of the posters in this thread). The solution to this problem isn't to sanction them but to make those contracts themselves illegal so that doctors and nurses can have a chance of doing the right thing without sacrificing more than they already have.
posted by telegraph at 5:13 AM on February 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


There is always a difference between killing someone directly and allowing someone to die of indirect causes.

Apparently, the differences between mercy and cruelty are lost on the dear Director.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:13 AM on February 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Catholic teaching allows you to terminate an ectopic pregnancy, although they may pretend you're doing something else. Ectopic pregnancies are common, and they're extremely dangerous if allowed to progress. People will tolerate a few dead women sacrificed to Catholic doctrine every year, but they would balk at tens of thousands of dead women.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:20 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


but they would balk at tens of thousands of dead women.

Looking at the history of this sort of thing, I'm not as optimistic as you are. I rather strongly suspect there's a big chunk of people who would be A-OK with that. I mean, except for their wife/daughter/friend/mother, who I'm sure should be granted a special dispensation. But for everyone else, sure, no problem let 'em die it's gods will.
posted by aramaic at 6:00 AM on February 19, 2016 [12 favorites]


I mean, except for their wife/daughter...

As the daughter in one of these cases (my parents happily let me go without care in life-threatening cases, and I likely would have died had my torsioned ovarian cyst burst in their care rather than on the other side of the planet), I'm afraid this is too optimistic a view of humanity.

There are definitely more than just a few dozen women dying because of these views. There are plenty additional negative consequences beyond death, too. PDF direct link
posted by fraula at 6:06 AM on February 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Wait, Swedish is a secular org, according to their website. They don't perform terminations of pregnancy, but their stated reasoning is that they recommend it as an outpatient procedure and will refer patients.
posted by Existential Dread at 6:44 AM on February 19, 2016


US healthcare really is fucked up beyond belief. I feel for all y'all.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:48 AM on February 19, 2016


There's a clear and obvious difference between a Jewish hospital that has a Shabbat elevator (or that only serves kosher food) -- which would be like a Catholic hospital that didn't serve meat on Fridays or during Lent, which doesn't strike me as a huge problem either, or a Muslim hospital that doesn't serve pork -- and a Catholic hospital that doesn't follow normal medical standards for women's health care.
posted by jeather at 6:57 AM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm in the middle of this kind of nonsense myself.

I'm a female-bodied person, done with child-bearing, trying to get my tubes tied. Because of my breast cancer diagnosis last year, any hormonal birth control is off the table. Every ob/gyn in my insurance network is affiliated with the Catholic hospital system which does not perform sterilizations. I was met with shoulder shrugs and "sorry" from the surgery schedulers and my insurance customer service person.

Using my internet research skills, I dug up an email for an executive vp of my health care organization (Humana) who also happens to be an oncologist and sent him a pretty indignant email. I got a call from his "team" two hours later and got the wheels turning (slowly) to arrange for my surgery at an out-of-network facility. WHICH THEY ARE REQUIRED BY LAW to do anyway. But it wasn't until I made a ridiculous, way up the food chain fuss about it that anything happened.

But I (middle class educated stubborn white lady) had the resources to do that. Many many women do not. I think as many people who can afford to make a lot of noise about this need to keep doing it. And doing it and doing it.
posted by pantarei70 at 7:25 AM on February 19, 2016 [20 favorites]


It's just, I'm pretty sure that when the woman who has an ectopic pregnancy inevitably dies, the fetus dies too, so how is that a win?
posted by bq at 9:25 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


According to a really loopy anti-abortion website I found once, you're denying God the chance to perform a miracle, plus it is never ok to kill a "baby", even if the "baby" is going to die anyway and take its mother with it. To be fair, even the readers of the really loopy anti-abortion website seemed to have a hard time with this.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:33 AM on February 19, 2016


They believe children and fetuses are "innocent" (whatever that means), and grown women can't be...they've had sex, after all. So death is better for them then for a child. If God wants her to live, she will! Tada! They are absolved of having done anything wrong!
posted by agregoli at 9:54 AM on February 19, 2016


Oh, it's not just Catholic hospitals either. Down here,we gots Baptists. Loads of em. Neither Baylor or Scott and White will perform terminations. There was a case in Ft worth not too long ago where a theoretically secular large hospital forced a woman's family to sue to be allowed to take her off life support because she was pregnant, despite meeting all the criteria for brain death, and despite the fact that never has a long term postmortem pregnancy resulted in a healthy live baby, in the entire disgusting history of forced postmortem prenatal ventilation.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 10:05 AM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Baylor and Scott & White actually merged some time ago, so I'm not surprised they're both making the same bad decisions.
posted by sharp pointy objects at 1:18 PM on February 19, 2016


"Even if you value fetuses over women, protecting the life of the PERSON WHO CAN MAKE ANOTHER FETUS, is the only logical thing to do. Why do women always fall lower on the "right to life" scale for these people than the "preborn"?"

I remember reading The Thorn Birds yonks ago and when Meggie was in that situation, Father Ralph was all (paraphrasing), "Technically the Church says we can't prioritize one life over the other. But as far as I'm concerned, save Meggie and to hell with the baby."
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:50 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


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