[extropy-chat] article: Who Controls Your Health Care? (Shape magazine)

Amara Graps amara at amara.com
Wed Oct 29 11:10:20 UTC 2003

A topic to be aware

article "Who Controls Your Health Care?" by Lisa Lombardi
Shape magazine, July 2003
(American edition)

In Lombardi's article, she describes the practices of Catholic and
other faith-based hospitals, presenting some alarming stories about
what these hospitals will and will not do for the health of women

The first example she gave was a pregnant woman whose water broke
while she was carrying only a 13-week-old fetus and she needed to
abort it, otherwise she would put herself at risk for contracting a
dangerous and potentially lethal infection of the uterus. The nearby
hospital could not perform the emergency procedure, because the
procedure would have been considered a 'normal' abortion (because
she did not (yet) have an infection), and therefore, not permitted
under the (Catholic) hospital's rules. On the other hand, if she had
developed a potentially lethal infection, then they would have
performed the procedure. In this woman's case, her choices were to
wait until her life was threatened and then go to the nearby
hospital, or else go to the more distant (nonCatholic) hospital
immediately, have the procedure, and save herself while she still could.
She did the latter. The author presents several stories of this type:
that is, the health of the patient is sacrificed while waiting for
the patient to develop a condition that would be life-threatening
'enough' for the doctor(s) to perform the life-saving surgery. For
many doctors, this would be a breach of medical ethics.

Another story that the author presented regarded the squishy
definition of pregnancy. Doctors define pregnancy as a fertilized
egg implanted in the uterine wall having grown to such a stage that
it would show positive on a pregnancy test. Catholic theology
defines conception as occurring when the egg is fertilized, which
unless already implanted in the uterine wall and growing, wouldn't
show up on a pregnancy test. If a woman is raped, but conception is
not detectable yet, then a Catholic-based hospital will not perform
a procedure to remove the egg.

Catholic health-care institutions (small hospitals to large medical
centers) in the U.S. follow "Ethical and Religious Directives for
Catholic Health Care Services," which give rules established by the
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. These rules limit many
reproductive procedures including emergency services. If you are
depending on a particular hospital or hospitals, you should find out
if your hospital is under Catholic oversight. Apparently about 15%
of the US's community hospitals are run, following these rules. In
the last ten years, 171 non-Catholic hospitals in the US have merged
with Catholic hospitals and health-care organizations, so you would
be wise to check.

The procedures that are usually restricted in Catholic health-care
systems: Contraception, Abortion, Direct sterilization, even if
the mother's health is at risk. Also certain assisted reproductive
services, such as in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination and
any other fertility treatment that separates "procreating from the
marital act." (However fertility testing and fertility drugs are

Lombardi's article is aimed towards women living in the US, but I would
guess these kinds of rules apply in other countries' Catholic
hospitals too. Some countries simply make some of these procedures
illegal. Abortion is flat-out illegal, I think, in Spain, Portugal
and Ireland.

In Italy, artificial insemination by an unknown donor sperm is illegal;
(i.e. sperm banks) the sperm must be from the husband or permanent
partner  of the would-be mother. If that sounds absurd, then look at
more absurdities:  if a woman/couple wishes to adopt a baby instead,
then there are restrictive laws about that too: she/they cannot be
older than 45 years to adopt a baby, for example.


Amara Graps, PhD          email: amara at amara.com
Computational Physics     vita:  ftp://ftp.amara.com/pub/resume.txt
Multiplex Answers         URL:   http://www.amara.com/
"What I find most disheartening is the thought that somewhere out there
our galaxy has been deleted from somebody else's sample."
   -- Alec Boksenberg [on the occasion of his 60th birthday celebration]

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