Catholic health systems, healthcare, Michigan — September 23, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Catholic hospital refuses to provide potentially life-saving procedure for pregnant woman


Michigan woman with a brain tumor is denied care that would be standard at any non-Catholic hospital.

A Catholic hospital in Michigan is denying a pregnant woman care on the basis of religious principles, ignoring the life-threatening implications of their refusal to adhere to medical standards.

Jessica Mann, a pregnant woman with a life-threatening brain tumor, requested an exception to religious directives that govern Catholic-affiliated hospitals, so she could have her tubes tied at the time of her scheduled C-section next month. The refusal comes following a demand letter sent on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan last week — even though the hospital has previously granted exceptions to other women seeking the same procedure.

Genesys Hospital replied to the ACLU demand letter, stating, “As you are aware, as a Catholic facility, Genesys follows the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Facilities and based on the information we have received, Genesys will not be able to perform the procedure requested.”

In response, the ACLU sent another letter to the hospital demanding they reconsider and make an exception no later than Friday, September 25, or else the ACLU will proceed with filing two formal complaints, one with the Department of Civil Rights and one with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which oversees the licensing and regulation for entities in Michigan.

Brooke Tucker, attorney at the ACLU of Michigan, had this to say:

It is completely outrageous that a hospital, which should put ‘do no harm’ above all else, is putting Jessica’s life at risk because of unevenly applied Catholic directives. Religion has no place in the operating room, and Jessica and all women deserve to get the care they need.

As I wrote here last week, Mann’s doctor highly recommends that she has no more children due to the risk a pregnancy would pose to her health because of her brain tumor. Although her doctor requested a medical exception to the general prohibition on sterilization procedures, Jessica was informed that the request would not be granted on the basis of religiously based rules that govern hospital policy.

If Mann wants her tubes tied at the time of her C-section, she would have to choose another doctor with privileges at a non-Catholic hospital. Changing doctors this late in a high-risk pregnancy like hers is ill-advised.

Mann spoke out about the hospital’s decision.

I am less than five weeks away from giving birth and should not have to be terrified that I am losing my doctor and risking my life just because of the religious beliefs of the hospital. Decisions about my care should be between me and my doctor — Catholic bishops have no place in that equation.

Genesys Hospital is part of Ascension Health, the largest Catholic healthcare system in the country. The facility is governed by religious rules called the Ethical and Religious Directives. Written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the directives classify common reproductive health procedures as “intrinsically evil.”

Tubal ligation, known as “getting one’s tubes tied,” is the contraception method of choice for more than 30 percent of U.S. married women of reproductive age. An estimated 600,000 women undergo this procedure each year. For women who want a tubal ligation, performing it at the time of a C-section is recommended practice and is the standard of care. Having a tubal ligation after Mann recovers from the C-section in several weeks is also not recommended because that would also require another round of life-threatening full anesthesia and surgery.

Ten of the 25 largest hospital systems in the U.S. are Catholic-sponsored, and nearly one of nine hospital beds in the country is in a Catholic facility.

This isn’t about the involvement of religious institutions in the provision of healthcare — it’s about the intrusion of religious officials into healthcare decisions that should be made by doctors and patients. It’s time to stop letting the religious views of some dictate the care available to everyone.

Catch up on my Eclectablog series on how Catholic health systems are restricting access to care HERE.

[Image credit: Greyerbaby, via Pixabay.]