October 29, 2016

The Danger of Catholic Hospitals

I was reminded by Samantha Bee a few days ago that Catholic hospitals represent a unique threat to women because the institutions are constrained by Catholic dogma. Catholic hospitals will not provide birth control, perform abortions, or perform sterilizations, even when medically indicated. Should a woman find herself in a Catholic hospital and in need of an abortion to save her life, she had better see that her will is in order or find her way to an alternative hospital that is not stuck in the Middle Ages.

Bee did a fine job of exposing the danger that Catholic hospitals represent. I cannot do a better job, so I invite you to view her powerful segment from Full Frontal:

I’m not a lawyer and don’t understand all the rules under which hospitals currently operate, but there is apparently some ambiguity as to whether a hospital can refuse to perform a life-saving procedure on the basis of the religious beliefs of its owners. (See “One of the Nation’s Largest Catholic Hospital Systems Says It Can Deny Women Emergency Care Because of Its Religious Affiliation.”)

Let’s get one thing straight, however. By any reasonable 21st-century moral calculus, no hospital should be allowed to let a patient die because its “standards”—not the standards of the medical profession—do not permit it to perform a legal procedure that is the standard of care in non-Catholic hospitals.

When I was an ignorant southern conservative, I was appalled when the government asserted that owners of “public accommodations” (hotels, restaurants, etc.) could not discriminate on the basis of race. I was oblivious of the pain and inconvenience such discrimination visited upon racial minorities. I eventually came to realize, however, that society has the right to impose restrictions on institutions that offer their services to the public. Outlawing discrimination provided not only a benefit to particular populations, but also a general benefit—though one not necessarily immediately recognized—to the body politic.

A hospital, whether a nonprofit or for-profit one, also offers its services to the public. Whereas a hotel’s denying services can inflict inconvenience and embarrassment, the discrimination practiced by Catholic hospitals can inflict chronic suffering, disability, or death.

The public, through the instrument of government, should assure that all hospitals provide a standard of care determined by the medical community, not one determined by a cabal of Roman Catholic bishops. We should demand that hospitals owned by the Catholic Church are first of all hospitals, providing all the services hospitals are normally expected to provide.

If the Catholic Church is incapable of providing 21st-century hospitals, it should not be allowed to operate its pseudo-hospitals at all.

The Catholic Church and evangelical Protestants have been working—alas, with some success—at expanding the notion of freedom of religion. This has been most conspicuous in the ridiculous Hobby Lobby decision and the ongoing efforts of the Catholic Church to exempt itself from providing reproductive services to employees of church-related institutions such as universities and hospitals. The American notion of religious freedom, however, was never intended to facilitate the imposition of one’s religious beliefs on others, nor was it intended to ascribe protectable religious beliefs to non-church entities, whether purely commercial or church-related. Above all, religious freedom was never meant to sanction the virtual murder of innocent women by withholding standard medical treatment.

It is to be hoped that a more reasonable, liberal Supreme Court resulting from the election of Hillary Clinton will begin to scale back the notion of religious freedom so as to protect all citizens, not simply the hysterically paranoid on the Christian Right.

1 comment:

  1. I am having trouble believing that a woman would be allowed to die in a Catholic hospital due to doctrine. This has to be an anomaly.


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