Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The World Day of the Sick and the New Charter for Health Care Workers

In anticipation of last year's World Day of the Sick (February 11), the Vatican (2/6/17) presented an update to its original Charter for Health Care Workers, maintaining sections on procreation, living, and dying while including post 1994 Magisterial documents:
    The Instruction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dignitas personae (2008);
In late Summer 2017, the National Catholic Bioethics Center published an English language translation of the New Charter.  Yet articles about the New Charter have been slow to appear in the press.  And as of 2/6/18, I find nothing about the New Charter on the web sites of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre (nee Linacre Centre), the Catholic Health Association of the USA, or the Catholic Medical Association.  This is a document which desperately needs our attention!

In its introduction, the New Charter reminds us that the vocation of health care is to be greatly honored.  All that it proclaims about procreation rests on the truth that “11….The inseparable bond between conjugal love and human generation, imprinted on the nature of the human person, is a law by which everyone must be guided and to which everyone is held.”  While the Church clearly prohibits so-called embryo "transfers" from one woman to another, some have suggested - even after the Vatican's Dignitas Personae (#18,19) of 2008 - that a door might be ajar for consideration of exceptions for so-called "snowflake adoptions." I find nothing in the Charter to support exceptions for "snow flake adoptions."

The section on "Living" is the largest in the Charter and covers a vast array of areas, including "interceptives" and "contraceptives."  Like Dignitas Personae (#23) before it, the New Charter offers NO guidelines for any supposed "moral" use of potential abortifacients, yet again indicating the need for change in practices at Catholic hospitals.  From a medical standpoint, Doctors (Rev.) Juan Vélez, Rebecca Peck, Chris Kahlenborn, Walter B. Severs, Walter Rella, Julio Tudelo, Justo Aznar and Bruno Moznegga warn us that there is NO way around very real risk . It is disingenuous to deny or downplay that very real risk of causing an abortion by emergency [so-called] contraception in Catholic hospital emergency rooms (cf., 
Rebecca Peck, MD, Walter Rella, MD, Julio Tudelo, PharmD, PhD, Justo Aznar, PhD, and Bruno Moznegga, MD, Does levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive have a post-fertilization effect? A review of its mechanism of action, Linacre Quarterly, April 2016;
Rebecca Peck, MD, Chris Kahlenborn, MD and Walter B Severs, PhD, FCP, Mechanism of action of levonorgestrel emergency contraception, Linacre Quarterly, February 2015;

Fr. Juan Vélez, MD and Rebecca Peck, MD, The Postovulatory Mechanism of Action of Plan B, NCBC Quarterly, Winter 2013)
Footnote #167 of the New Charter appears to have been translated inadequately into English, as the wording could seem to infer a favorable judgment on the use of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells, which was absent from Dignitas Personae (#30).   As Dr. Diane Irving explains, "'Some iPS cell are potentially embryos'....Given the ability of cells to be reverted to the embryonic stage...'any human cell can be used for reproductive purposes,' so pro-life people must start making very careful distinctions about what type of cell is being created and used and the methods used to obtain them" (LifeSiteNews, 4/23/13).

The Church has NOT issued a definitive judgement on brain death criteria.  Dr. Peter Colosi (Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly, 8/8/12) notes that "The medical studies of Dr. Alan Shewmon of UCLA Medical School are quite convincing indications that brain dead people are not dead, or at the very least that we do not have moral certainty that they are."  The New Charter includes this 2008 cautious quote from Pope Benedict XVI:
    “In an area such as this, in fact, there cannot be the slightest suspicion of arbitration and where certainty has not been attained the principle of precaution must prevail. This is why it is useful to promote research and interdisciplinary reflection to place public opinion before the most transparent truth on the anthropological, social, ethical and juridical implications of the practice of transplantation."
This past week saw the passing of Professor Germain Grisez, a true giant of Catholic moral theology.  Two decades ago, Dr. Grisez reminded us of all that is at stake with Catholic health care:
    "Catholic hospitals that avoid all wrongful cooperation and maintain their identity may not be economically viable. Therefore, Catholics committed to health care as an apostolate may have to look for other, better ways of carrying it on....a Catholic hospital’s special apostolate requires that the critical mass of participants be not only practicing Catholics but people whose professional work is permeated by faith and Christian mercy....doing God’s will and entirely avoiding wrongdoing are at the heart of anything that can be called an apostolate. Do not regard actions such as sterilization and abortion merely as forbidden procedures and do not think of wrongful cooperation with them merely as rule breaking, to be avoided if possible. Recognize such acts as grave injuries to persons or their very destruction, and thus contrary to Christian love and entirely incompatible with your apostolate....the essence of apostolate is not only to promote a human good such as health but to practice Christian love and bear witness to the gospel’s truth, including love for the tiniest and the most debilitated of Jesus’ sisters and brothers, and the moral truths regarding how they are to be dealt with" (The Way of the Lord Jesus, Volume 3, Difficult Moral Questions, 1997 (# 87))

The Beatitudes from "Jesus of Nazareth"


Use of Emergency So-Called Contraceptives in Catholic Hospitals for Those Reporting Rape

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12/12/08 Interview with Rev. Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D. of the National Catholic Bioethics Center

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