One of the lessons (wrong, it turns out) that Americans took from the Terri Schiavo fight goes something like this: “What made Terri’s situation so tragic was that she didn’t have a “living will,” an advance directive. If she had only had one of those, everything would have worked out fine.” Advance directives, more commonly called “living wills,” are simple enough documents. Aging with Dignity is just one of many organizations that offers a “simple” advance directive. You run through a list of treatments or care you do or do not want to receive in the future, putting pen to paper, and viola! — you can now rest easy knowing your wishes will be respected should you no longer be Read More ›
Catholic hospitals are under unremitting attack — from prestigious medical journals, media, and lawyers in courtrooms. The goal is to coerce these venerable institutions into replacing their faith-based methods of medical practice with secular moral standards that deny the sanctity of human life.
A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine — perhaps the world’s most influential medical publication — illustrates the threat to medical conscience rights. Ian D. Wolfe and Thaddeus M. Pope, two prominent bioethicists, fret that one in six U.S. hospitals is “affiliated with a Catholic health system.” This is a problem, in their view, because religiously-affiliated hospitals often “refuse to provide legally permitted health services on the basis of institutional belief structures.” The authors are referring to services like abortion, sterilization (absent a pathology), assisted suicide (where legal), and transgender sex reassignment surgeries that alter a body’s normal biological functions. Refusing such procedures, the authors claim, leads to “substantial risks for patient choice, patient safety, and the fundamental principle of autonomy.”
Patient choice? Yes, sometimes. If a woman requests an abortion and the hospital says no, she is not getting what she wants. But safety? The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services allow Catholic hospitals to refuse interventions that violate Church belief, but nonetheless require that all patients receive proper care. That includes providing “all reasonable information about the essential nature of the proposed treatment and its benefits; its risks, side-effects, consequences, and cost; and any reasonable and morally legitimate alternative.” In practice, this may also include referring patients to non-Catholic institutions.
Worries over “safety” are more likely a deflection to mask anti-religious bigotry. Charles C. Camosy, associate professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University, believes that in many circumstances, the motive for attacking Catholic medicine “is about raw power. Certain influential people don’t want certain [medical] choices denied, so they try to use their power make things the way they want them to be.”Read More ›
In Sweden, midwives can be fired and deemed unemployable for refusing abortion. In Ontario, Canada, doctors can face professional discipline for refusing to administer (or refer for) euthanasia. Ditto to refusing an abortion in Victoria, Australia. In California, a Catholic hospital is being sued — with the explicit blessing of the courts — for refusing to allow a transgender hysterectomy. But now in Argentina, the right to obtain an abortion has been declared so fundamental that an objecting M.D. can be held criminally culpable for refusing to terminate a pregnancy. An Impossibility? That would seem to be a moral and legal impossibility. But Argentina just elevated the “medical conscience” controversy to a whole new level of concern — from the potential of not “only” having Read More ›
Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign is over, but I want to return to something Bloomberg once said that was brought up by reporter Peter Hasson during Bloomberg’s most recent campaign that speaks to a fundamental issue in healthcare issue: Billionaire and Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg said in a 2011 video that some elderly cancer patients should be denied treatment in order to cut health care costs. He drew on a hypothetical example of a “95-year old” with “prostate cancer” to signal an openness he would have to reform how Medicare provides treatment. “All of these costs keep going up, nobody wants to pay any more money, and at the rate we’re going, health care is going to bankrupt us,” said Read More ›