Catholic health systems, healthcare — October 14, 2015 at 2:15 pm

ACLU of Michigan files formal complaint over Catholic hospital’s denial of care


Complaint filed with state licensing agency demands investigation and discipline for failure to provide potentially life-saving procedure.

After repeated refusals by Catholic-owned Genesys Hospital to adhere to medical standards and perform a potentially life-saving procedure on a pregnant woman, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has filed a formal complaint with a state licensing agency.

The complaint, filed with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs — which oversees the licensing and regulation for entities in Michigan — is in response to Genesys Hospital’s multiple refusals to provide Jessica Mann with a tubal ligation. Mann’s health is already at risk during her current pregnancy, because of life-threatening brain tumors, and her doctor has advised her not to get pregnant again. Getting her tubes tied at the time of her scheduled C-section this month is the safest way to perform the procedure, and the standard of care recommended by medical professionals including Mann’s doctor.

Genesys Hospital cited religious directives as the reason for denial — despite the hospital’s prior record of granting exceptions to other women seeking the same procedure.

From Brooke Tucker, attorney at the ACLU of Michigan:

We’re taking the fight to the state agency that governs the hospital because it’s their job to make sure women like Jessica get the care they need. Religious directives have no place in hospitals, especially because they end up harming the very women they should be serving.

As I’ve written here previously, Mann was denied the procedure because of religiously based rules that dictate hospital policy. Although her doctor requested a medical exception to the general prohibition on sterilization procedures, Mann was informed that the request would not be granted in spite of the hospital making the same exception for other women in a similar situation.

With less than a week left before her due date, Mann now has to gather insurance documents and referrals in order to obtain the care she needs elsewhere. Otherwise, she would have to undergo a second procedure — and a second round of anesthesia — both of which would put her health, and even her life, at risk given her medical issues.

Mann had this to say:

I am very close to giving birth and instead of being excited, I’m terrified because my hospital turned me away, and I’ve had to go find a new doctor and hospital with little time to get them up speed on my complicated medical history and health risks. All of this could have been avoided if Catholic bishops weren’t allowed to play doctor at hospitals that serve the public.

It’s important to note that the state has a responsibility to protect patients at hospitals it licenses, Tucker told me. The state can’t simply ignore that responsibility and let patients receive substandard care based on who owns the hospital. This is not only a risk to patient safety, but also allows hospitals to skirt the rules while still receiving taxpayer funds.

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.”

The ACLU of Michigan has also filed a federal lawsuit against Trinity Health Corporation, a Catholic health system, for failing to provide emergency room care to pregnant women.

Catch up with my Eclectablog series on the troubling rise of Catholic health systems, where religious doctrine can trump medical standards.

[Image credit: Bonbon.]