Let’s take a look at Tamesha Means v United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [pdf].
Plaintiff Tamesha Means brings this negligence action against the United States Conference for Catholic Bishops and others for promulgating and implementing directives that cause pregnant women who are suffering from a miscarriage to be denied appropriate medical care, including information about their condition and treatment options. These mandates, known as the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (“Directives”), do not merely set forth the opinions of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (“USCCB”) on certain health care issues. Rather, the Directives require Catholic hospitals to abide by their terms, even when doing so places a woman’s health or life at risk.
There you go. That’s the first three sentences and it sums up all we need to know right there – a much too obscure and little-noticed fact about health care in these here United States – the fact that the conference of Catholic bishops orders Catholic hospitals to refuse to perform even life-saving abortions. If you tell people this they don’t believe you. They may even call you a liar. And yet it’s true.
This urgently needs to be fixed. The federal government needs to tell the USCCB that it may not interfere with medical care, period. The feds need to tell Catholic hospitals that they have to do whatever is best for the patient, in consultation with the patient, period. No bishops.
Here’s an interesting detail:
Defendant Stanley Urban is a resident and citizen of the State of Pennsylvania. Urban is the Chair of Catholic Health Ministries, an unincorporated foreign entity that is the religious sponsor of MHP.
MHP is Mercy Health Partners, which is the hospital that gave Tamesha Means such terrible faith-based treatment. Why do we even have “religious sponsors” for hospitals? Why aren’t hospitals secular as a matter of course? They should be welcome to have all sorts of religious services available for people who want them, of course, because hospitals are obviously top of the list of places where religious people are going to want religious company and help. But that should be strictly separate from medical treatment. It’s deranged that it’s not.
Another important detail:
MHP is the only hospital in Muskegon County, Michigan.
A Catholic monopoly on hospital care in a whole county.
17. Plaintiff’s ultrasound report indicates Plaintiff had an amniotic fluid index of only 3.4 and a condition called oligohydramnios, which refers to a decreased volume of amniotic fluid due to the premature rupture of membranes.
18. MHP also diagnosed Plaintiff with preterm premature rupture of membrane, a condition in which a woman’s amniotic sac ruptures with a gestation less than 37 weeks.
19. MHP informed Plaintiff that the fetus was not yet viable.
20. MHP did not inform Plaintiff that in most cases, an amniotic fluid index of 3.4 at 18 weeks of pregnancy, in the context of premature rupture of membranes, means that the fetus will either not be born alive or will be born alive and die very shortly thereafter.
21. MHP did not inform Plaintiff about the serious risks to her health if she attempted to continue the pregnancy.
It’s medical malpractice, at the behest of Catholic bishops. At the only hospital in Muskegon County, Michigan.
We live in a fucking theocracy here.
I don’t know how well it would work in practice, but could you charge USCCB with practicing medicine without a license?
Raging Bee says
No, one probably couldn’t — offhand (IANAL, BTW), I’m guessing this case will hinge on how much influence the USCCB really had over the hospital. As in, what would have happened to doctors and other staff who refused to obey the Directives? If the plaintiff can’t show that disobedience would have brought major repercussions down on the medical staff, she could lose, because the USCCB would just say “All we did was publish guidelines, you can’t punish us for that!”
Subtract Hominem, a product of Nauseam says
Negligence? I’m very far outside my area of expertise, but that seems more like recklessness to me.
Are there any well-informed-about-the-law people here who know why they’re suing for negligence rather than recklessness? Is there a lower burden of proof or something like that? Is my question irrelevant because the Demand for Relief includes a point seeking to “declare that Defendants’ negligent acts were willful, wanton, grossly negligent and/or reckless?”
Ophelia Benson says
RB I don’t think they can quite say that, unless they want to perjure themselves. They explicitly do not treat the ERD as mere guidance. Don’t forget that Bishop Olmsted tried to extort a WRITTEN AGREEMENT from Healthcare West (a Catholic network) never to perform a lifesaving abortion like the one at St Joseph’s again. He was adamant that this was not just an opinion or advice; it was an order.
Now of course in the real world he has no way to enforce it other than churchy ways, but he said what he said.
Even if the USCCB can’t be charged, the actual doctors can, and hopefully at least one will lose his license.
Raging Bee says
Now of course in the real world he has no way to enforce it other than churchy ways…
Actually, if the orders come from the people who control a significant chunk of the hospital’s money, then bloody well can enforce them outside of church. I’m betting that’s why the Directives were obeyed in this case: save one life today, lose the money you need to save a hundred next week.
The fact that Catholic hospitals don’t allow abortions even at a point that there is no way to save the fetus is all the prove someone should need that they are not, in fact, pro-life. If you would rather allow the death of the one “soul” you can save rather than do a simple procedure that will destroy a mass of tissue that will not survive, that is not even close to resembling pro-life. That is merely anti-woman.
Ophelia Benson says
RB – hmm – I don’t actually know how that works, now that you mention it. I think the bishops don’t control the money, but hey, maybe I’m wrong. Although I guess I have some reason for thinking that, which is that the reporting on the bish of Phoenix said he had no real way of enforcing his demands.
Argle Bargle says
The Catholic Church doesn’t care if the woman dies or not or if the fetus dies or not. As long as the fetus isn’t aborted, the bishops are happy. Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius. (Kill them all, God will know his own.)