He needed a gender-affirming procedure. The hospital said no.
November 1, 2019 3:09 PM Subscribe
As rural hospitals shutter, and faith-based care grows, “religious refusals” are leaving some patients without options. In the summer of 2016, Evan Minton was preparing for his scheduled hysterectomy at Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Carmichael, California, just outside Sacramento. The procedure, part of his gender-affirming care, should have been routine. But the day before, the hospital abruptly canceled his surgery; the hospital was Catholic, and a procedure that results in sterilization is a violation of the Ethical and Religious Directives that, with rare exceptions, govern Catholic hospitals. Minton had experienced what’s known as “religious refusal,” a growing — and divisive — phenomenon in which health care is denied on the basis of religious beliefs.
The implications here are clear for patients like Minton, but the Ethical and Religious Directives also frown on fertility treatment. When former California resident Michelle, 37, and her husband, Josh, 42, learned that something had gone wrong in the early stages of her IVF pregnancy, they were advised to terminate. But when she went to the doctor’s office, the couple alleges, the doctor grumbled about the paperwork needed to get authorization from the Catholic facility for the medically necessary shot of methotrexate, which would have stopped the cells from growing. (Michelle’s then-physician and affiliated hospital did not respond to a request for comment.)
Michelle says the doctor told her, “What did you expect, getting someone pregnant who shouldn’t be?” The couple, who asked that their last names be withheld for privacy reasons, say they felt like an unwelcome burden. They sought treatment elsewhere, but by that time she required general anesthesia and a surgical procedure, which came with increased risks including infection, infertility, and even death. The memory haunts Michelle, preventing her and her husband from “emotionally being able to move forward with our remaining frozen embryo,” she says. They fear a repeat denial of care if something goes wrong with another pregnancy.
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