The final arbiter is the local bishop

Just imagine, some people see handing over medical care to god-botherers as a bad idea.

“Physicians are being told they must refuse to provide certain services even when they believe their refusal would harm their patient and violate established medical standards of care,” said Lois Uttley, who heads MergerWatch, a New York-based group that fights the takeover of secular medical centers by religiously affiliated hospitals.

Church officials, bioethicists and hospital officials counter that the facilities are guided by directives calibrated to deliver state-of-the-art medical care without violating religious and moral beliefs.

But they shouldn’t be guided by directives calibrated to avoid violating religious beliefs. Period. Religious beliefs have nothing to do with decisions about what the best medical care would be, and they should stay out of it. Doctors, nurses, hospital administrations, ethics committees have no business imposing religious beliefs on other people.

Disagreements between dioceses and hospitals, as well as cases in which patients do not receive needed care, are exceedingly rare, they say.

They should be non-existent. Exceeding rarity doesn’t make them ok.

“We have literally hundreds of institutions that care for men, women and children every day and provide excellent care, especially to the poor,” said Richard M. Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. “We always do so with respect for each and every life in our care.”

No you do not. That is not true. That is exactly what you don’t do. That is a falsehood. One of your bishops in particular, and your whole vicious Conference in general, insists that in a case like the one in Phoenix the mother must be allowed to die along with her fetus. Don’t tell falsehoods about your murderous policy; tell the truth about it so that everyone will know exactly what is at stake here.

Since 1971, Catholic hospitals have been guided by the Ethical and Religious Directives , which detail religious and moral justifications for care extending from conception to death. The interpretation of those directives is the responsibility of ethics committees at the hospitals, and the final arbiter is the local bishop.

The local bishop has the final word on policy for all Catholic hospitals in his diocese. The local bishop can set aside medical judgment any time he wants to. That’s an appalling arrangement.

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