Islanders Speak Out Against Religious Health Care

This letter was shared with me by residents of Orcas Island.  If you are a resident in an area served by Island Hospital, you may want to write your own, or copy and paste this with your own name attached to indicate support for the letter writer’s perspective.
Dear Commissioner Iverson, Commissioner Ely, Commissioner Maughan, and Commissioner Bogosian;
After reading the Island Hospital outreach announcement in our local newspaper, and after listening to Vince Oliver at the April 23rd annual meeting of the Orcas Medical Foundation (OMF), we are responding to your invitation to express our views on the critically important step which you plan to take for the future of Island Hospital, and for us, your neighbors in the San Juan Islands.
We believe that the pending decisions that Island Hospital makes, for aligning with a larger regional healthcare system, will have serious long-term consequences for our future. We also feel that to align with a healthcare system which limits, or places restrictions upon, medical care based upon religious values would be both abhorrent and frightening. We feel that it is crucial that the Board of Commissioners of Island Hospital be farsighted in formally and legally ensuring that any relationship established with any larger healthcare system will be, and must remain, totally secular in all of its policies covering the choices that a patient, and that patient’s doctor, may make regarding his or her own care.
The new arrangement with Skagit Valley and Cascade Valley hospitals makes very good sense. As Mr. Oliver expressed, collaboration is far more effective and productive than competition. Mr. Oliver also told us that the Board’s top choices, among the regional healthcare systems with which to ally (subsequent to the request-for-proposal process) are: Peace Health and Swedish/Providence, both of which are religious; and the University of Washington and Virginia Mason, both of which are secular.
PeaceHealth already has numerous facilities in our geographic area, which might make it seem a logical preference. However, PeaceHealth is a Catholic healthcare system, and therefore is ultimately obligated to enforce the Church’s restrictions and prohibitions on reproductive and end-of-life care, such as emergency contraception, abortion, and physicianassisted suicide. We are very aware that PeaceHealth’s reproductive-healthcare restrictions have presented serious problems for the Planned Parenthood clinic in Whatcom County. Furthermore, one of the consequences of the new Peace Island Medical Center‘s association with Peace Health is the legal issue of whether or not it is permissible for a County Hospital District’s medical facility to be run by a religious entity.
We strongly believe that a relationship with the University of Washington would be the wisest decision, in terms of patients’ and doctors’ freedom of choice for treatment, and also because the University is a long-standing and financially-well-endowed institution.
We appreciate your efforts in providing high-quality, compassionate medical care for this community. We also appreciate the financial complexities that you face. But as you make your decision, we implore you not to impose one religion’s rigorous set of values upon all of us, thereby limiting our access to some of the medical treatment options available to ourselves, to those we love, and to our doctors.
(name removed in the interest of privacy)
Commissioner Jan Iverson
Commissioner C.W. “Buzz” Ely, MD
Commissioner Paul M. Maughan, PhD
Commissioner Chip Bogosian, MD
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One thought on “Islanders Speak Out Against Religious Health Care

  1. Howard Pellett

    Good post. I agree completely with what was said. I would add one additional point and that is that we must maintain vigilance, not only because of the current situation, but for the future, when it has been judged that the steam may have gone out of our movement.

    One of the Island Hospital commissioners was quoted as having said that their choice would come down to horse power (who could provide the horse power), no mention of the concern for our legal and constitutional rights.

    Now, all they have to come up with is the right choice of words in order to dupe the populace.


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