How Health Care Options for Secularists Are Being Lost by the Expanding Church Takeovers of Hospitals
Introduction: A Not Unrealistic Scenario
Imagine visiting or worse, being hospitalized as a patient in a medical center wherein women had to wear burkas, prayers were heard on intercoms, health professionals and others ritually reminded themselves and others around them that God is great and, most concerning of all, selected medical procedures standard in non-sectarian institutions were strictly verboten.
No, Muslims are not taking over American medical facilities. It's worse than that. The so-called "Holy Roman" Catholic Church is.
This fact presents many of the same problems that any other religious sect sponsorship might entail -- symbology that amounts to religious propaganda. In the case of Catholic medical institutions, it includes omnipresent statues of saints, a holy mother and depictions of a corpse hanging on an ancient execution device. But, these are simply irritants or annoyances compared with the main concern. The main concern is one that every American would have who favors personal freedoms to choose from the best options medical science has to offer -- the imposition of dogma over science.
In Catholic medical institutions, dogmas that might be viewed as irrelevant or ridiculous by non-Catholics have the effect of eliminating medical options otherwise available.
The Catholic Takeover
Catholic medical organizations are buying secular, non-profit institutions in many parts of the nation. Ownership allows conservative bishops to impose their faith-based "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services" over everyone who come under the influence of Catholic hospitals. Patients are affected whether they are Catholic or not. Say goodbye to a full range of services all adults, particularly those who do not subscribe to Catholic dogma, have a right to access.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has been tracking this worrisome trend. In late June, a warning letter was sent to Washington State officials warning about the problems associated with the Catholic health care takeover in that state. At least eight secular medical institutions are affiliating with Catholic organizations. Alarm bells should be ringing, and not just in Washington but all over the country.
In every case of Catholic ownership, control or affiliation, all citizens affected lose access to constitutionally protected forms of medical care. Catholic institutions are governed by rules that uniformly restrict what church leaders consider "morally bankrupt" and "intrinsically immoral (e.g., contraception!) medical practices. This means dogma and church doctrine trump quality patient care and citizen choices. Already, according to FFRF, "Catholic ownership and control of medical facilities has diminished access to and treatment for conception, contraception, abortion, miscarriage, voluntary sterilization and end-of-life care. It may also lead to discrimination based on marital status or sexual orientation."
Who, other than the most devout and subservient Roman Catholic, would want that?
When the Catholic Church gains control of a medical facility, the focus is as much on prohibiting medical services of which it disapproves as providing services not restricted by church dogma. Catholic medical institutions forbid all forms of abortion, including instances in which the woman's life or health is endangered and in cases of incest and rape. Also barred is testing on embryonic blastocysts or in-vitro fertilization for use in stem-cell research.
At least for the non-religious, such religious beliefs should have no place whatsoever in the availability of a full range of medically warranted care services. The only guidelines should be what is viewed as in the best interest of the patient based upon secular tenets and ethics of the medical profession. Roman Catholic medical organizations uniformly express their mission, purpose and work in terms rooted in the Catholic religion. No one who is not a Catholic should be subjected to limits or anything else based upon the Catholic religion. Furthermore, it is well known that not all or even most Catholics support all the restrictions church institutions impose in the facilities they control.
What should matter to everyone, including cafeteria Catholics who think for themselves, is what medical science advises, regardless of what the Pope or the bishops claim for church doctrines. As FFRF's lead attorney observed, "This all-male conclave of professional celibates has no business dictating terms that deny the health and wellness of others, especially women."
In the State of Washington, sterilization is not allowed in hospitals that have been taken over by the Catholic medical complex, even when doctors determine it can save the patient's life. In addition, assisted suicide, legal in Washington, is not permitted or even discussed at church-controlled facilities.
Imagine that you are at an unmistakable end-stage of life, and every medical adviser acknowledges that there is no future quality of life left for you, only an indeterminate period of relentless suffering. Imagine further that you have a clear and unshakeable desire to bring your life to a close and that you have the support of your family and friends for doing so. Then consider that the medical institution where your fate is controlled is controlled by the Catholic Church, and it takes the following view of things: "Patients experiencing suffering that cannot be alleviated should be helped to appreciate the Christian understanding of redemptive suffering." (Source: Bishops' Directive # 61.)
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