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 firstname.lastname@example.org.