Sunday, February 14, 2010

letter to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, re: "Ethics Concerns at Local Hospital" (The Bulletin, 2/9/10)

It was the fact that St. Mary Medical Center's web site made "physician referrals" to providers of immoral services, which raised concern about systemic problems at that Catholic institution. A full, independent ethics audit of St. Mary Medical Center has long been requested. As per "Ethics Concerns at Local Hospital" (The Bulletin, 2/9/10),
  • "According to Archdiocesan spokeswoman, Donna Farrell, an independent ethical review of St. Mary’s was conducted by a moral theologian. 'The results of this review have been communicated along with related recommendations to the executive management team of St. Mary’s,' she said. 'Their receptive response indicates that implementation of recommended changes should be evident in the near future'”>.

There have been some slight changes to , since 1/16/10:
  • In some places, the word "referral" has been changed to the word "directory."

  • Some narrative has been added with regard to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as well as a dsclaimer with regard to what practitioners do off site.

  • All listings for “Infertility / Reproductive Endocrinology” have been removed.

  • The four practitioners from the Northern Fertility & Reproductive Associates (aka, Reproductive Associates of Philadelphia) have also been removed from the OBGYN listings.

Of the remaining 34 OBGYNs on St Mary's directory (including Stephen Smith, M.D.), only one is known to be NFP-only. Yet, contact information for all 34 OBGYN's private practices continues to be provided on St. Mary’s directory. Even if St. Mary’s is legally bound to provide hospital privileges to any licensed physician, why are they promoting the private practices of those engaged in immoral procedures?

As evident from an unfriendly piece on the Huffington Post, fidelity to the Truth comes at a price. The baseless argument is that ethical medical treatment and sound medical practice differ from each other:
  • “Catholic hospitals, which boast a long and admirable history of caring for the seriously ill and indigent in the United States, have for many years finessed the challenges of serving two disparate and often incompatible masters….two recent developments relating to Church policy have set medical ethics and Catholic doctrine on an unfortunate collision course.

  • “The first of these disturbing Church salvos against mainstream medical ethics is to be found in the newly promulgated Directive 58 of the United States bishops' body governing Catholic health care services….

  • “A second Church-instigated challenge to medical ethics has arisen as a result of a grass roots protest by anti-abortion organizations in Pennsylvania against the well-regarded St. Mary's Medical Center of Langhorne….a diocese spokesman stated that changes in the hospital policies are to be expected. The very decision to conduct…a moral audit displays a chilling new direction in Church practice…. allowing Church dogma to dictate the medical practices of physicians clearly violates the most basic tenets of healthcare ethics….

  • “Both of these events expose the dark & unspoken (although widely understood) secret that enables Catholic hospitals to practice first-class medicine: Official Church policy on matters such as contraception and end-of-life care, like much Catholic doctrine more generally, is largely honored only in the breach….any pledge to support Catholic doctrine on medical matters is broadly viewed as a formality to be agreed to and then summarily ignored. Historically, the Church has looked the other way. Now, by challenging this longstanding system of benign neglect, bishops and grass roots zealots may believe they will achieve ideological purity….

  • “Once one accepts the premise that Catholic hospitals are public institutions, they have a moral obligation to comply with generally accepted standards of patient care and professional ethics. Today's hospitals are far more Caesar's than they are God's….The Church would be wise to focus its energies on theology and to leave the practice of medicine to the professionals”>.

Your clarification would be appreciated. Exactly how extensive was the ethical review of St. Mary Medical Center, and what did it entail?

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