Saturday, March 13, 2010

Why We Let Catholic Health Care Discriminate.

The Moderate Voice has a great discussion going about the benefits and detriments of Catholic health care in the US. If you read here often, you know that the Catholic Church controls the services provided at the 624 hospitals - and hundreds of long-term care, hospice care and other institutions - in the US.

The post is a little long and emotional, as well as full of disinformation. But the comments area is fascinating and gives a good look at the high emotions that surround this issue.

For decades the Catholic church has worked to perpetuate the belief that they are too big a part of health care to be forced to operate without discrimination. What would the country do if the church pulled out of hospital operation?? In fact, they have worked in this field for centuries as part of their mission to care for the poor and sick. While I believe that the purpose is sincere, nonetheless, they discriminate against patients by not providing the full spectrum of legal, medically sound services. And they refuse to provide proper informed consent or referrals. In essence, they use the reverence that society has given the moral goodness of the church to discriminate against women, gays, elders and the poor by deciding what "conscience" those patients should have.

Here's my comment on the site:

Fantastic discussion. A couple of corrections: Catholic hospitals get 50% of their funding from the government, just like every other non-profit hospital. Less than 3% of their income is from donation so they are clearly not providing Catholic health care with Catholic donations. And Catholic hospitals - all 624 of them - statistically do no more "charity" work than other non-profits. In fact, all hospitals are required by federal law to treat the uninsured.

The best analogy is a company town. The company provides the jobs, the housing, the schools, even owns the grocery story. They are "too big to fail" in that town. One can say, oh thank god for the company, without it we would have no jobs or schools or groceries. But the truth is that the company then dictates all aspects of the town's life. And if the company says women should not be able to plan how many children they have or that a terminal patient can't be removed from artificial nutrition and hydration when they wish, the company is exercising it's size and monopoly to the detriment of employees rights.

When a pluralistic society finds itself subject to the doctrine of a religious health care institution, patients' rights are violated. Those who suffer the most are the poor and minorities in society. But we are bashful about calling out this issue because we give reverence to the "good intentions" of the Catholic church and those of us with voices have the resources to go elsewhere.

Reproductive services clinics have risen over the past 38 years to provide what Catholic and other denominational hospitals have not. They serve the poor and provide services unobtainable elsewhere.

I do believe that denominational healthcare is a discriminatory practice in the US but I also accept that the dictates of the Catholic hierarchy are not necessarily what's practiced in Catholic hospitals. Yet, that dissent cannot erase the fact that Catholic Ethical and Religious Directives discriminate against the poor, women, elders, gays and others by not informing patients' of all legal and medically-sound treatments and providing meaningful referrals. If we continue to privilege provider (and institutional) conscience over patients' conscience, we perpetuate this discrimination. Denying this is dishonest and a disservice to equality and individual conscience in this country - as well as a violation of equal rights.

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