Hospital administrators interfered

More detail, from the full report by the National Women’s Law Center.

the Study revealed four serious lapses in care resulting from religious restrictions:

  • Doctors performed medically unnecessary tests, resulting in delays in care and additional medical complications for patients. These tests were done solely to address hospital administrators’ concerns that the treatment complied with religious doctrine.
  • Doctors transferred patients with pregnancy complications because their hospitals’ religious affiliation prohibited them from promptly providing the medically-indicated standard of care.
  • Hospital administrators interfered with doctors’ ability to promptly provide patients with the standard of care.
  • Hospital administrators interfered with doctors’ ability to provide patients with relevant information about their treatment options.

The religious administration of these hospitals is over-ruling the technical decision process of doctors, and endangering and sometimes killing women by doing so.

Why, exactly, is this being allowed?

One illustrative horror story:

Yvonne Shelton, a nurse employed in the labor and delivery unit at a nonsectarian hospital in New Jersey, refused to assist in two cases of women experiencing serious pregnancy complications: an emergency hysterectomy of a woman who was eighteen weeks pregnant and experiencing a life threatening condition, and another patient, also with an pregnancy that was not viable, who needed to have labor induced in order to save her life.83 Based on her religious beliefs, Shelton refused to assist in any procedure that terminated fetal life. She considered such procedures to be unacceptable abortions, even though nothing could be done to save the pregnancies and the procedures were necessary to save the women’s lives.

The hospital offered Shelton a transfer to another unit where she would avoid such conflicts, but she refused to make the change. After being fired, Shelton sued the hospital, claiming religious discrimination in violation of Title VII, the federal law prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of religion. The court ruled in favor of the hospital. It found that the hospital’s transfer solution had been a reasonable accommodation, and that its overriding responsibility was to protect a patient seeking emergency care.

Note that. Shelton not only refused to assist, she refused to do a different job. She wanted to insist on staying in the very job she refused to do, so that she could prevent women from getting needed medical care. She wanted to make women like that die.

With respect to Catholic-affiliated hospitals, they are governed by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which provide guidance on a range of reproductive health services including surgical sterilization, family planning, infertility treatment and abortion.

They are “governed by” Catholic religious directives. Hospitals are governed by Catholic religious directives.

Medical care is a technical subject. It’s not religious doctrine. Religious directives should play no role in the governance of any hospitals.

We don’t let Catholic religious directives govern engineering firms, do we. No we don’t. We don’t want papal edicts deciding on the safety of airplanes or bridges or tall buildings. Why do we allow Catholic religious directives to govern hospitals? Is it because it’s only women who are killed by this disgusting policy?

Most individuals and even many health providers presume that the Directives’ prohibition on the provision of a range of abortion services applies only to nonemergency pregnancy terminations of otherwise viable pregnancies. But the Study is consistent with anecdotal accounts that provide strong evidence that some hospitals and health care providers have interpreted the Directives to prohibit prompt, medically-indicated treatment of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy, placing women’s lives and health at additional and unnecessary risk.10

As did University Hospital Galway.

Miscarriage, or pregnancy loss before twenty weeks gestation, occurs in ten to twenty percent of all diagnosed pregnancies.11 The standard of care depends on the condition which caused the miscarriage as well as the particular circumstances of the patient. One factor is whether the patient is stable, or unstable. An unstable patient is one who is “within reasonable medical certainty” likely to experience a “material deterioration” of her condition during a transfer to another hospital.12 Signs that a patient is unstable include heavy bleeding, severe pain, and a rising temperature — an indication of the onset of an infection.13 If it is determined that nothing can be done that would allow the woman to continue her pregnancy, the established standard of care for unstable patients who are miscarrying is an immediate surgical uterine evacuation.14 In the case of such a patient, immediate uterine evacuation reduces the patient’s risk of complications, including blood loss, hemorrhage, infection, and the loss of future fertility.15 A delay in treatment may subject a woman to unnecessary blood transfusions, risk of infection, hysterectomy or even death.16 (Emphasis added.)

As happened at University Hospital Galway.

I’m now wondering if anybody has any actual figures on this. It seems pretty clear that many of these deaths won’t be reported in the way Savita Halappanavar’s was – they won’t be reported as malpractice at the behest of religious doctrine. But perhaps some have been?

At any rate – it’s a fucking outrage, it has to be stopped, attention has to be paid.




  1. gwen says

    I’m a registered nurse. 30 years ago, a young woman came to my hospital having been diagnosed with uterine cancer halfway through a wanted pregnancy. It was an aggressive cancer and there was no doubt that the cancer would get to the finish line before the fetus was viable. The only chance to save the woman’s life was an immediate termination of the pregnancy and aggressive chemotherapy as soon as possible. There was no guarantee we would be able to save the woman’s life. This woman and her husband were mourning their lost baby while staff members went out of their way to treat the young woman like shit. I lost all respect for them and became rabidly pro-choice after that experience.

  2. Shaker Srinivasan says

    No numbers, but this paper provides substantial qualitative data: Lori R. Freedman, Uta Landy, and Jody Steinauer. When There’s a Heartbeat: Miscarriage Management in Catholic-Owned Hospitals. American Journal of Public Health: October 2008, Vol. 98, No. 10, pp. 1774-1778.

    Quoting from the paper:

    Catholic-owned hospital ethics committees denied approval of uterine evacuation while fetal heart tones were still present, forcing physicians to delay care or transport miscarrying patients to non–Catholic-owned facilities. Some physicians intentionally violated protocol because they felt patient safety was compromised.

    There is also this chilling observation:

    Patients entering a Catholic-owned hospital may be aware that abortion services are not available there, but few prenatal patients conceive of themselves as potential abortion patients and therefore they are not aware of the risks involved in being treated there; these include delays in care and in being transported to another hospital during miscarriage, which may adversely affect the patient’s physical and psychological well-being.

    This paper is a must read for every pregnant woman.

  3. anat says

    OK, so how easy is it to find out which hospitals in one’s vicinity are science-based hospitals and which are superstition-based, misogynistic ones? Especially when things like the purchase of Swedish Hospital by Providence last year.

  4. chinasea says

    Why did it take 17 days for the story to break? She died on October 28. Were they trying to keep it quiet?

  5. steve84 says

    I think it was the husband who told the media. It’s not surprising that no one else would make it public.

  6. says

    And that’s the thing – in other cases husbands won’t know, because the hospital won’t have told them. In others husbands might think there’s nothing they can do about it, or that it’s their duty to shut up about it.

    Probably mostly the first though.

    What a dirty little big secret this is.

  7. Matt Penfold says

    And that’s the thing – in other cases husbands won’t know, because the hospital won’t have told them. In others husbands might think there’s nothing they can do about it, or that it’s their duty to shut up about it.

    I heard on the BBC Today program that her husband has quite a few family members who are medical doctors. I suspect it might not have been until he talked to them that he realized just what had (not) been done for his wife.

  8. chinasea says

    I’m not sure it was the husband that directly broke the story, the early reports said he was already in India burying his wife.

  9. johnthedrunkard says

    I think it is about time we started to see ‘hospital administrators’ led out in handcuffs.

    Reckless endangerment and manslaughter are pretty obvious here. Indeed, pursuing these policies on the basis of prior planning suggests malice aforethought and should qualify as first degree murder.

    If bishops can finally be prosecuted as accessories to child rape, these monsters should be held accountable for murder.

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