The danger posed by Catholic hospitals

Catholic hospitals often provide health care in areas where there is no other facility. But Samantha Bee gives a powerful message about the danger posed by Catholic hospitals becoming such a large part of the health care network, because of the way they reject any medical procedures that go against their medieval beliefs, even if the end result of their decisions is death.

I know that the medical profession has ethical standards for doctors. What happens when those ethical standards conflict with Catholic church directives that are imposed on the hospitals? Where does that leave the physicians who work in such places? This article discusses some of the issues but in a rather shallow way.

There are several factors at play. One is the medical need of the patient. Another is the ethical standards of the patient. A third is the ethical standards of the physician providing treatment. The fourth is the ethical standards of the medical profession. The fifth is the ethical standards of the hospital where the treatment is being provided. When these five things are not in alignment, which ones get priority?

This issue must have been litigated at some point and when I have the time, I will try and find any cases that are relevant. Anyone out there know if any?


  1. david albers says

    Mu wife’s sister died from complications from a pregnancy. She became septic. If the fetus had been removed, she may have had a good chance. She was in Aberdeen SD. The hospital is Catholic. They air lifted her to Sioux Falls. She went into a como and never came out.

  2. cartomancer says

    Interestingly enough modern Catholic views on abortion are very much not mediaeval -- they’re late 19th century. While the mediaeval church was never exactly keen on abortion, for the most part it followed the scientific consensus of its day -- that being the Aristotelian notion that a foetus only became alive after about four or five weeks when it received its motive soul (the “quickening”, when one first felt the foetus move). The earliest papal pronouncements on the subject are from Innocent III (1198-1216), which state that only abortions performed after the quickening should be punishable by canon or civil law. Apart from a brief five-year period in the 1580s, when Sixtus V outlawed all abortions (his immediate successor changed it back), it wasn’t until Pius IX’s 1868 bull “apostolicae sedis” that a blanket condemnation of all abortions became official Catholic policy. It’s much more about high Victorian prudery, fear of science, misogynistic backlash against the first stirrings of feminism and a retrenchment of attitudes in the face of theological liberalism than it ever was about an authentic desire to emulate the Middle Ages.

  3. Storms says

    I’ve seen this in my city, Cincinnati, where you now have a choice between the Tri-Health mafia and the Catholic mafia for your care, and you’re screwed if your transported in an emergency.
    So how do we curb this abuse of power? Could it be done through legislation? Is there a way to place the medical consensus and standards of care above the desires of deluded old men?

  4. Mano Singham says


    I am so sorry to hear this story. It really is unconscionable to set religious doctrine over the life of the mother.

  5. says

    Catholic hospitals often provide health care in areas where there is no other facility

    The religious want to control hospitals in order to project their bizzare views of the world. If there’s any argument for why hospitals would be public-funded in a rational society, that’s it.

  6. otrame says

    This situation is not new. When I was barely 19 (which was almost 50 years ago) I came into an emergency room complaining of abdominal pain that has started a week or so before as a mild ache that increased to really severe that morning, accompanied by vomiting. I was admitted, which, now that I know a lot more about hospitals, seems very strange, especially since I had not yet seen a doctor. I was also given 75 mg of Demerol before I was seen. I distinctly remember the hallway rolling around my vision as I was taken up to a room just as the Demerol hit. I also distinctly remember a doctor coming in to see me while I was still high as a kite on the drug. He poked my tummy a couple of times, told me I had a viral gastroenteritis (what we usually call stomach flu) and said I would be observed until morning. If I had not been ignorant, I would have asked WHY?

    The next morning, they released me. That night I was in a lot of pain, but I believed the doctor. The next night the pain took on a completely different feel, and got much worse, and I woke my husband and we headed to the nearest hospital. It was not the same hospital because we had been on a trip to the local large city when I vomited and the pain worsened enough to send me to the original ER. That night the ER was in a tiny little local hospital. My husband had to almost carry me into the building. I remember that my blood pressure was 60/40 because even back then I knew how bad that was. They hit me with a lot of fluids and blood, basically hoping to get my BP up some and finally about 3 hours later I went into surgery. I had an ectopic pregnancy (I had never heard of that until then) that had ruptured the fallopian tube and I was trying very hard to exsanguinate.. I was in v fib twice on the table. I only survived because I was a very young, healthy woman. I still remember the funny-shaped sore places on the skin of my chest. The surgical nurses came in to see me the next day and told me I was their miracle girl.

    I thought it was just a mis-diagnosis. Then several years later I was reading my husband’s medical books, out of boredom (yeah, I was pretty bored). In the OB-Gyn text book, I ran across a sentence that said, “If you do not rule out ectopic pregnancy in any sexually active woman of childbearing age who complains of abdominal pains, you will be guilty of malpractice.”

    That is a hell of a statement for a medical textbook. Nothing even remotely like it was in any of the others. It got me thinking. It was then that I remembered that the first hospital was Catholic. It was then I realized that I am, in fact, a victim of an attempted murder. Not out of malice, to be sure, but out of depraved indifference. Accent on depraved.

    Maybe the doctor pretended to himself that if he didn’t actually order the tests he needed to do, then he could just get me out of the hospital in good faith (I just threw up in my mouth a little). In the other hospital, the one that saved my life, a pregnancy test was ordered with all the others, right at the beginning (for you young whippersnappers out there, pregnancy tests could not be bought over the counter in those days). All the damned Catholics had to do was say “We think it’s possible you have an ectopic pregnancy but we are not allowed to do anything about that here. Here are two local hospitals that can help you.” They’d rather I die than do that.

    I have nothing against Catholics, as individuals, except a sort of low-level contempt for anyone who supports that evil organization--low level because we are all guilty of ignoring uncomfortable truths from time to time. But the church as an organization is fucking evil and every doctor who ever failed to tell a woman that she might have an ectopic pregnancy because of hospital and church policy is evil too. I often wonder how many women they have murdered like they nearly murdered me.

    And I often wonder how I got admitted that first morning. I wonder if a nurse was trying to force the hand of the doctor and failed. Of course she (and it was almost always a she in those days) didn’t tell me what she suspected. I suppose she had kids to feed, so I have forgiven that. Just barely. She didn’t know that I had an ectopic pregnancy, after all. Or maybe he told them to admit me over the phone, just on the indications that I had an acute abdomen, and when he got the pregnancy test back, he decided to lie to me about what was wrong with me. I haven’t forgiven him. I hold doctors to a high standard and that fucker tried to kill me.

  7. Mano Singham says


    This is a horrible story and I am so glad that you survived. The mind shudders at the number of women who have not survived.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *