Catholic Hospitals and Standard of Care

A few days ago I wrote a post about a small band of brave Catholic priests who objected to the universal application of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, which forbid the use of any artificial contraception, denied abortion even to save the life of the mother, and in general twisted reproductive health care for women well out of the realm of what doctors call “standard of care.”

Lest you think Humanae Vitae is past history and doesn’t matter anyway because most couples, including Catholics, ignore it, the pernicious effects of this encyclical pop up again in current time.

With hospital consolidation, certain areas of the country only have Catholic hospitals. Believers and non-believers alike are forced to go to these hospitals for care. Often insurers mandate the local Catholic hospital as the only one “in-network”. This from the New York Times Five Thirty Eight:

My colleagues Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux and Anna Maria Barry-Jester have been publishing a series on the role of religion in health care. In their most recent piece, they explore the fact that insurers can funnel patients to Catholic hospitals, which in turn can restrict the reproductive care available to the patient. “Thanks to a wave of mergers and consolidations that has been reshaping the U.S. health care system,” they write, “Catholic hospitals are playing a bigger role in patient care.” This is especially true in the Midwest. In Wisconsin, for example, 41 percent of hospital beds are in Catholic hospitals.”

Remind me never to move to Wisconsin.

As an older person, I’m beyond the need for the kind of reproductive health care that is prohibited by Humanae Vitae. But I’d be scared to death to be in a Catholic hospital if and when end of life decisions need to be made. I’m fortunate to live in a place like Seattle with wonderful health care systems, and to have choices about where to go for care. I wouldn’t choose a Catholic hospital for any reason, any time, ever.

2 thoughts on “Catholic Hospitals and Standard of Care

  1. We’re fortunate in this area – no Catholic hospitals here! It’s sad when people are left with so few choices in such important areas of health care.

  2. for Phyllis: Catholic hospitals provide a lot of charity care, and that’s a real service to the communities where they are located. But having reproductive health and end of life choices under the thumb of the local bishop is a very bad idea.

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