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Growth in Catholic hospitals prompts concerns about medical care

Most people in Miami can name at least one nearby Catholic hospital. In fact, Catholic hospitals are increasingly acquiring and merging with secular ones. This is a matter of concern to many people (Catholics and non-Catholics alike) who fear that decisions about their medical care are being made not by doctors but by Catholic bishops following the Catholic Church's Ethical and Religious Directives. A group called Merger Watch was even started to help communities fight hospital mergers involving Catholic-run facilities.

Despite this, the number of hospitals with Catholic affiliations has been growing. This year, largely thanks to rising health care costs, there will be more such acquisitions and mergers than ever. As this trend increases, some people, particularly in rural areas, have no secular hospital within a reasonable distance.

While it's not surprising that a Catholic hospital would not be the place to go for a woman seeking contraception or other similar types of services, the Ethical and Religious Directives have been used as a basis for denying emergency contraception to rape survivors, refusing to honor patients' end-of-life directives and waiting until a woman is in danger of dying to perform needed medical procedures.

While most of the health care needs impacted by a Catholic takeover of a hospital are related to obstetrical and gynecological matters, a number of older people and their families in Miami and other areas with a large senior population are concerned. If they have do-not-resuscitate documents asking that they not be revived or kept alive if their condition deteriorates, they want to know that those wishes will be respected.

Doctors have said that having to adhere to Catholic doctrine puts patients' health - and possibly their lives - at risk. The National Women's Law Center has gotten sworn statements from patients detailing how they were impacted by the regulations imposed on their care by the Catholic Church. Aside from obvious medical malpractice issues, many women are left with no place to go for basic needs such as contraception.

Whenever anything, even church doctrine, is allowed to take precedence over the health and wishes of patients and their families, medical facilities and the professionals employed there leave themselves open to civil and potentially criminal legal action. If a patient is harmed or dies because medical professionals did not provide appropriate care, they and their loved ones have every right to seek justice in court.

Source:, "Communities fight for control of hospitals" Meredith Clark, Nov. 09, 2013


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