Monday, April 04, 2016

Just The Woman, Her Doctor And Some Catholic Bishops

Those are the people who are supposed to be involved in pregnant women's medical treatment in Catholic hospitals in the US. 

About one out of six hospital stays in the US takes place in a Catholic hospital, and those hospitals tend to follow the US Catholic Bishops' Ethical and Religious Directives.

What's fun about those directives, created by a bunch of presumably celibate guys, is their disproportionate impact on pregnant women.*  Now muse on that for a moment!

Anyway, those directives tell us this:

Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted. Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion, which, in its moral context, includes the interval between
conception and implantation of the embryo.


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

Can you wrap your head around that latter case?  Ectopic pregnancies,  which in other places are called medical emergencies require a different approach in the minds of those kind and gentle Catholic bishops.  These types of pregnancies can never result in a living child but may very well result in a dead woman.  Yet there are specific ethical (!) rules not to intervene by anything that could be viewed as an abortion.

This does not mean that Catholic hospitals wouldn't try to save the life of a woman with an ectopic pregnancy, just that the directives are so harebrained** and wild and fanatic that they stipulate extra suffering, uncertainty and possibly medically inferior treatments for the woman, simply because, in theory, the embryo is still alive even though it will never ever be born.

The first quote above is of equal concern, because it rules out abortion even in the case of an ongoing miscarriage unless the woman's life is at risk.  Thus, something similar to this case could happen in one of those American Catholic hospitals, too:

The report found that the application of the ERDs by Mercy Health Partners, a Catholic hospital in Muskegon, subjected five pregnant women to prolonged miscarriages that could have been life-threatening, Becker's Hospital Review reports. The incidents occurred between August 2009 and December 2010.
The five women each experienced a pregnancy complication involving the premature rupture of membranes surrounding the fetus, a condition that can cause miscarriage when it occurs prior to fetal viability. All of the women were less than 20 weeks pregnant at the time they presented symptoms at the hospital (Becker's Hospital Review, 2/19).
The report stated that all five women presented with symptoms indicating immediate delivery would be the safest option (The Guardian, 2/18). Specifically, the report found that all of the women presented with symptoms of infection, including elevated temperature or heart rate. Guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) state that in such cases, most physicians would induce labor (Becker's Hospital Review, 2/19).
According to the report, the hospital did not tell the women that they could opt for immediate delivery rather than wait for a natural miscarriage, nor did it tell them that immediate delivery was the most appropriate medical care in instances of infection. One of the women included in the report said she asked the hospital for immediate delivery, but they denied her request.

An internal audit by a Mercy Health physician argued that only one of the women showed signs of infection, but even she wasn't moved to another facility where an immediate abortion would have been available.

Similar cases have cropped up in the past.

What I find utterly cruel are these cases where miscarriage is unavoidable, but where the women are not helped or treated because the fetus still has a heartbeat.

This is another case of fanatic and uncaring religious dogma***:  the privileging of a few days of life by a fetus which cannot live over the suffering of the pregnant woman and her partner and the willing acceptance of the risk that such waiting just might kill her, too.  And all this in the name of a divine power, as interpreted by the Catholic Bishops.

Catholic hospitals have increased their market share over the last decades, often by merging with secular hospitals.  That the hospital system created by that merger is quite likely to follow those (hilariously named) Ethical and Religious Directives is not something all people may know. And if the only hospital you can quickly reach while miscarrying is a Catholic hospital, well, be aware that the a Catholic bishop will stand behind your doctor's shoulder and determine what kind of care you should get.**** 


* The directives also affect all patients, because Catholic hospitals may overrule end-of-life directives and because they will not carry out vasectomies or tubal ligation.  But the so-called "beginning of life" rules deserve special attention as they can endanger the health of a pregnant woman and require her to have additional pointless suffering.

**  With due apologies to all hares who would never invent anything  contrived to hurt hare-women while calling it ethical.

***  So very often about women, have you noticed?  The rules of the Catholic church, the Islamic sharia law and other similar structures hurt women much more than they hurt men.

****  The issues I have discussed here are not solely Catholic issues.  Any life-begins-at-birth group may create similar medical dangers for pregnant women.  See this recent case from Texas as an example.