I just listened to stunning Diane Rehm show on NPR which focused on the Michigan suit filed by the ACLU against the Catholic Bishops. Featured was John Haas, who is the President of The National Catholic Bioethics Center. As its website states, the Center is the largest Catholic publisher of books and periodicals on bioethics in the country, and John Haas consults to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and was appointed as an “Ordinary Member of the Pontifical Academy for Life” by Pope Benedict.
1) Haas is clear that physicians and staff will be thrown under the bus for following the bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care when doing so results in negative consequences for the Catholic bishops. His recommendation to the ACLU very specifically is that “it comes down to the individuals involved” and they should have filed a malpractice suit against the physicians involved in the care of the victim in the Michigan case.
So if you’re a doctor or nurse working in a Catholic hospital, please know that when the going gets rough and a patient suffers because you are following the ERDs, the Catholic Church, through its well-placed advocates, is going to turn on you fast.
2) For an “ethicist,” Haas is VERY troublesome ethics. On the show, he made several false and misleading statements. One of them is that because of Directive 47, the case in Michigan should not have happened and the fact that it did means the physicians weren’t following the ERDs.
To wade our way through this, we have to study the Directives themselves. First, let’s look at Directive 45, which states unequivocally that: “Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a fetus) is never permitted.
What Directive 47 says is that “Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot safely be postponed until the child is viable….”
So, the question is, What’s a “Direct Abortion” and what is going on with these two directives that seem so at odds with one another?
Fortunately, lay people like me don’t need to work this through for ourselves because the bishops themselves have explained in a statement that was issued in June, 2010.
“The difference can be seen in two different scenarios in which the unborn child is not yet old enough to survive outside the womb,” says the bishops’ statement. “In the first scenario, a pregnant woman is experiencing problems with one or more of her organs, apparently as a result of the added burden of pregnancy. The doctor recommends an abortion to protect the health of the woman.”
“In the second scenario, a pregnant woman develops cancer in her uterus. The doctor recommends surgery to remove the cancerous uterus as the only way to prevent the spread of the cancer. Removing the uterus will also lead to the death of the unborn child, who cannot survive at this point outside the uterus.”
The first scenario is an example of a direct abortion, because the surgery directly targets the life of the child. The procedure only affects the function of the woman’s organs, and thus her health, in an indirect way, explained the document. “As the Church has said many times, direct abortion is never permissible because a good end cannot justify an evil means.”
The full text of the statement is included here at the bottom of this news report.
So, following the bishops’ own statement, it’s clear that in the Michigan case, an abortion was not allowable under the Directives, because there was no equivalent to “cancer” to remove or treat. The danger to the woman resulted from continuing the pregnancy after the amniotic fluid had ruptured. According to independent doctors, the appropriate course of treatment would have been to terminate the pregnancy.
The other thing Haas made clear in the Rehm interview is that the Catholic bishops are going to hide behind the false and misleading notion that the ERDs are “ethical teachings” only.
This is absurdly and patently False. It is a requirement for EVERY Catholic hospital that the Ethical and Religious Directives be imposed on ALL staff at a Catholic hospital. This is clearly stated in Directive 5, which states that “All Catholic health care services must adopt these Directives as policy, require adherence to them within the institution as a condition for medical privileges and employment, and provide appropriate instruction regarding the Directives for administration, medical and nursing staff, and other personnel.”
The lies and obfuscation regarding this case have only just begun. Stay tuned.