comments_image Comments

Forced Feedings At Your Local Catholic Hospital.

In November, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops changed the policies they use to govern all 624 Catholic hospitals in the country.  As the second largest provider of health care in the US, the Catholic Church enforces 72 Ethical and Religious Directives at all hospitals, hospices, long-term care facilities and in all 60 of their health care networks. The new directive, quietly made official even while the USCCB was working to make abortion the central, discriminatory focus of health care reform with the Stupak and Nelson amendments, now considers artificial nutrition and hydration as "obligatory" care. What this means is that despite your advance directive (living will) or the wishes of your family or medical proxy, the Catholic hospital is required to surgically insert feeding and hydration tubes into your body - against your wishes - should they deem it necessary. As Barbara Coombs Lee, President of Compassion & Choices writes at their blog:

Prompted  by The Terri Schiavo case, the Pope [John Paul II] sided with the picketers outside Ms. Schiavo’s hospice room, declaring that tube-feeding patients in a permanent vegetative state “always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act” and should “be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate.”

Did the pope’s guidelines allow for the patient’s view of benefits and burdens? Some ethicists still thought yes, but a September, 2007 response from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF, formerly called the Office of the Inquisition), said:

No. A patient in a ‘permanent vegetative state’ is a person with fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means.

What does this mean for you and your family?  Should one of you suffer a traumatic accident and find yourself at a Catholic hospital - as 1 in 5 patients does - you will not have the ability to make your own medical decisions regarding the kind of care you want. What allows the Catholic Church to deny you your rights as a patient?  The laws are numerous and discriminatory, from the Hyde Amendment to the Bush "conscience clause."  And don't think terminal patients are the only ones denied scientific, medically-sound care in Catholic facilities:  rape victims are often not given emergency contraception, unmarried women cannot receive fertility services, gays will not be counseled on STD or AIDS prevention, women are denied tubal ligations and contraception, men can't receive sterilizations...the list goes on.  What's more, they are not required to inform you of all medically-sound options, nor refer you to a doctor or facility that will honor your wishes.  All the while, each of these facilities receives tax-exempt status and 50% of their funding from the government. These laws allow religious institutions to enforce their doctrinal codes on all doctors and patients.  What patients' rights?  The US, despite decades of trying, still has no patients' bill of rights - precisely because the Catholic Church would be put out of business (and the medical industry has abetted them by strongly opposing government regulated). So here's the warning:  Know your state's laws about advance directives, talk to your family about your wishes, and don't ever let an ambulance take you or someone you love to a Catholic facility.  The Pope is ready to decide what health care you receive, even if that means force-feeding you to prolong death, and he doesn't really care what your rights are.