Yesterday was just a bad news day all around. I was driving home from work, and I was already trying to restrain myself from gouging my ears with the nearest sharp object due to listening to an interview with Rand Paul, who SO CLEARLY DOESN’T GET IT I could just scream. And then this story started. A story about a nun excommunicated for saving a woman’s life at a Catholic hospital. You know what’s funny? I kind of thought that is what the business of hospitals is – saving people’s lives.
So here’s the very brief story. A woman 11 weeks pregnant with her fifth child was admitted to St Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. She was experiencing heart failure, and the doctors told her that is she continued with the pregnancy, her risk of death was nearly 100%. The woman was reported as being too ill to be moved to the operating room, much less another hospital and agreed to an abortion. Here’s the rub – she was at a Catholic hospital, so in order for the pregnancy to be terminated, approval was required. Sister Margaret McBride, an administrator at the hospital as well as its liaison to the diocese, gave approval based on an exception called Directive 47 in the U.S. Catholic Church’s ethical guidelines for healthcare providers that allows, in some circumstances, procedures that could kill a fetus to save the mother.
The woman, I am glad to say, survived. Her four young children still have their mother, thanks to Sister McBride.
Sister McBride, as reward for saving this woman’s life, while following the Catholic Church’s own ethical guidelines for health care providers, was excommunicated – the most serious penalty the church can levy.
Rev. John Ehrich, the medical ethics director for the Diocese of Phoenix was quoted as saying “She consented in the murder of an unborn child. There are some situations where the mother may in fact die along with her child. But – and this is the Catholic perspective – you can’t do evil to bring about good.”
OMG! I feel like the back of my head is opening up and my brain is about to tumble out.
So the morally, ethically correct thing to do, according to the Catholic Church, is to withhold life-saving treatment, allowing both a woman and her unborn baby to die, rather than saving at least one of them. Newsflash - the purpose of a hospital is to save lives. If there's an opportunity to save a life, it's that hospital's ethical responsibility to take the opportunity and save a life.
The last time I checked, I believe the withholding of life-saving treatment is tantamount to murder. Parents who have refused consent to have their children treated for life-threatening illnesses have been brought to court. A woman who withheld consent to a c-section, resulting in the death of one of her babies, had murder charges brought against her.
So let’s get this straight. When a person denies treatment to herself, she could be accused of murder. But when the Catholic Church denies treatment to a woman who agrees to said treatment, resulting in her death as well as her 11-week fetus’ death, that is the ethically correct thing to do.
If your head isn’t reeling enough yet, let’s take a look at how some other scandals in the Catholic Church have been dealt with. There are male priests known to be guilty of sexually abusing children. These priests have been systematically protected and essentially let off the hook. Zero pedophile priests known to be guilty of sexual abuse have been excommunicated. Zero.
Why are scandals involving male priests committing heinous acts of abuse and betrayal covered up, while an act of mercy by a female nun, done in order to save a life (again, while trying to conform to ethical guidelines), results in the worst punishment the church can carry out? There appears to be a serious double standard when it comes to males involved in scandals versus females involved in scandals.
Are the lives of women so without value that they should be allowed to die on principle? What about self defense? Does a person have the right to defend herself from someone who is killing her, even if the one killing her is an unborn child? I’ve never seen or heard of any provision in Catholic doctrine that calls for passivity in the face of physical threats or war. Yet, when it comes to a woman, if her life is threatened by pregnancy, the “official church position would mandate that the correct solution would be to let both the mother and the child die.”
That just smacks of woman-hatred, if I’ve ever heard of woman-hatred. Thanks, Catholic Church. If ever I’m in need of ethical guidance, I’ll be sure to not bother knocking on your door.