Washington Hospital Policies Decoded – Master List Updated as of April 1

WAhospitalpolicies is an Excel file that summarizes hospital policies submitted to the Washington Department of Health.  You can view this as an HTML table here. Wherever possible, I’ve also researched applicable policies on hospital web sites in order to determine what services are available.  You can also check for the latest updates directly at the DOH web site here.

In some cases, I’ve described the policies as “Vague. Follows ERDs.”  As an example, in the case of Providence, they’ve posted a Reproductive Health Policy that includes the phrase, “rooted in our Mission, tradition, ethics, and science.”  They used this phrase as the opening to a bullet point that begins “When it comes to complex pregnancies, clinicians at Providence exercise judgment and adhere to best practices and standards of care…”

What the uninformed patient needs to know is that the “Mission” of Providence requires that they follow the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care, which is a set of more than 70 Directives that are, in many cases, VERY specific.  It is these Directives that dictate what “best practices and standards of care” in Catholic hospitals are.

In the case of pregnancy crisis, for example, Providence clinicians need to figure out (with the help of their ethicists and the local bishop) how to follow ERDs that say, as an example “Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted.”

Very specifically, in the case of an extrauterine pregnancy (which is what an ectopic pregnancy is), clinicians need to figure out how to obey Directive 48, which says, “In case of extrauterine pregnancy, no intervention is morally licit which constitutes a direct abortion.”

So when Providence says in its published policies that “In circumstances wherein a woman’s life is in danger such as an ectopic pregnancy, providers at Providence follow best practices of surgical and non-surgical options,” it’s unclear what they’re trying to communicate and how they balance that with a very specific ERD that they are required to follow which forbids a “direct” abortion.

At some point, I hope someone asks Archbishop J. Peter Sartain a very specific question as to why the bishops felt the need to include a specific Directive about extrauterine pregnancies forbidding “direct” abortion, when by definition, such pregnancies are not viable and put a woman’s life at risk.

It’s also worth noting that PeaceHealth has provided very explicit policies showing what they do and don’t provide.  At a high level, they follow the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care.  Patients who care about whether they can get appropriate reproductive health care or whether their advance directives will be honored should study the policies carefully.

For corrections, additions, please contact editor@catholicwatch.org.


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7 thoughts on “Washington Hospital Policies Decoded – Master List Updated as of April 1

  1. KAC

    Nice work and excellent analysis.

    It will be interesting to see how the Church (expert casuists they be!) will reconcile the irreconcilable in this case. I’m sure they will find a way of so doing, especially given the decades-old American shift to content-free corporate-style speech in all manners of communications. That cultural trend ought to facilitate the transition to theologically driven medical care without ruffling too many public feathers.

    1. catholicwatcher Post author

      As of right now, PeaceHealth policies are still missing from the Department of Health web site. I’m using that as source information for this analysis because PeaceHealth has said inconsistent and conflicting things. As an example, in a job description for a Family Physician in Vancouver, PeaceHealth said that it follows the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care. Those Directives forbid contraception and direct abortion even to save the life of the mother. When PeaceHealth clears up the discrepancy with the state and and its policies are posted to the WA Department of Health website, I’ll update this post.

      1. Karl

        PeaceHealth has a long and wonderful history of providing medical care, starting with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace over 100 years ago. I would suggest that this heritage and the fine medical care we all receive is to be treasured. I would only suggest that the readers of this blog help to maintain a balance between supporting PeaceHealth for the dedicated healthcare personnel and great healthcare we get while watching areas of concern in the patient interest. PeaceHealth has encouraged a very active role of patients on its committees and continually seeks patient input. If there are specific cases of patient concern, these need to be addressed in a compassionate and cooperative way. In Bellingham, we all depend on PeaceHealth as our major provider. We are lucky to have such a fine healthcare organization. There is no need to make this a “hot” political issue when our goals are best achieved through watchful vigilance, education and cooperation. For those with concerns, I believe the League of Women Voters is a great organization and encourage everyone to join the LWV to productively address these and other issues. And the LWV is not just for women, I have joined and am pleased to participate with this fine organization.

        I might add that I am not a PeaceHealth employee. I serve on the Patient Family Advisory Council and my sole interest is in assuring the best possible care for all patients/families. And we are encouraged to speak up if we see or hear about any patient problems or lack of good communication with patient’s family members. We, patient volunteers, take our responsibility seriously and try our best to represent all patients at PeaceHealth.

        1. KAC

          The selfless dedication; the warm altruism; the major initiatives to improve local and regional healthcare, especially for women and those at “end of life”; the pioneering advances PeaceHealth provides…why they are all genuinely heartwarming! Thanks for bringing these frequently overlooked aspects of this wonderful and unique healthcare system to public attention. Considering these extra-special facets of PeaceHealth (in particular) and theocratic healthcare (in general) one can only conclude that it must be time for this hyper-critical blog to fold up and blow off into the aether of cyberspace lest it bestir unsavory responses from irresponsible elements of the readership.

        2. catholicwatcher Post author

          Karl, your “watchful vigilance” is failing. PeaceHealth is now enforcing policies that put women’s lives and health at risk and that undermine the right of all patients to make decisions about their own health care at the end of life. This is now well documented. You may think it’s OK for the bishops to establish and enforce health care policies in institutions that are publicly funded. I and many others disagree.


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