Saturday, October 10, 2009

Father Tad's "When Pregnancy Goes Awry"

In an “ectopic” pregnancy, the new embryo implants somewhere other than the mom’s uterus – often in a fallopian tube. The incidence of ectopic pregnancy is on the rise; the MayoClinic acknowledges several risk factors:
· Previous Ectopic Pregnancy
· Inflammation or Infection, which can be associated with a history of gonorrhea or Chlamydia
· Use of medications to stimulate the ovaries
· Use of birth control pills or an IUD.

Citing the principle of “double effect,” Catholic health care has allowed the removal of a fallopian tube to save a mother’s life, in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. This unintentionally and indirectly results in the death of the preborn child.

Kudos to the Bulletin, for publishing Father Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D.’s “When Pregnancy Goes Awry” As per Father Tad, "Of the three commonly performed procedures for addressing ectopic pregnancies, two raise significant moral concerns while the third is morally acceptable.
· "The first procedure involves a drug called methotrexate, which targets the most rapidly growing cells of the embryo....A significant number of Catholic moralists hold that the use of methotrexate is not morally permissible because it constitutes a direct attack on the growing child in the tube and involves a form of direct abortion.
· "Another morally problematic technique [i.e., salpingostomy] involves cutting along the length of the fallopian tube where the child is embedded and 'scooping out' the living body of the child, who dies shortly thereafter....This approach, like the use of methotrexate...directly causes the death of the child....
· "a morally acceptable approach would involve removal of the whole section of the tube on the side of the woman’s body where the unborn child is lodged....the section of tube around the growing child has clearly become pathological and constitutes a mounting threat with time. This threat is addressed by removal of the tube, with the secondary, and unintended effect, that the child within will then die. In this situation, the intention of the surgeon is directed towards the good effect, which is removing the damaged tissue to save the mother's life, while only tolerating the bad effect, death of the ectopic child....We may never directly take the life of an innocent human being, though we may sometimes tolerate the indirect and unintended loss of life that comes with trying to properly address a life-threatening medical situation."

As per # 48 of the USCCB’s Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, “In case of extrauterine pregnancy, no intervention is morally licit which constitutes a direct abortion” <>. It is troubling to find that an article by Father Kevin O’Rourke remains on the web site of the Catholic Health Association of the USA, in which Father O’Rourke appears to suggest that salpingostomies and methothrexate ARE acceptable treatments <>. A statements of clarification from the USCCB would be extremely valuable.

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