Your Hospital Might Be Catholic, and That Might Be a Problem


Around one in eight Americans seeks treatment at a Catholic hospital, whether they realize it or not. In the Northwest, the percentage of Catholic hospitals is 44 percent and growing. The Stranger has a great piece on Catholics who are taking over and potentially imposing their faith on your health care. Here’s a real-life nearly-worst-case scenario from a woman who got scarily close to being the next Savita Halappanavar:

“I was past 24 weeks when doctors at Swedish told me I was miscarrying,” explains the woman sitting across from me at the coffee shop. We’ll call her Mary. She’s asked to remain anonymous to maintain her privacy, but like Halappanavar, Mary is a thirtysomething professional who was eager to start a family with her husband. So they got pregnant the old-fashioned, church- approved way: missionary style, after marriage. Life was swell, and the ultrasounds looked good. And then Mary awoke in pain last year; there was blood. She was checked into Swedish Medical Center, Seattle’s largest nonprofit health-care provider. But unbeknownst to Mary, last year the hospital formed an alliance with Providence, a Washington-based Catholic institution that operates 32 hospitals in Alaska, California, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.
Per their new relationship, Swedish agreed to stop performing abortions except in emergency situations-you know, like when a woman’s life is at risk. Its website now advertises OB “speed dating” events to new mothers: Choose the OB who will deliver your baby! But for expectant mothers whose pregnancies don’t make it that far, and whose health hasn’t yet deteriorated to “emergency” status, a grim set of entirely different choices await.
During Mary’s Swedish visit last year, “They said that they couldn’t save the fetus but it still had a heartbeat, so there was nothing they could do. They had to wait for the heartbeat to stop.” Mary says she demanded an abortion but was basically told her options were to “wait for nature to take its course” or unhook herself, crawl out of bed, and find another hospital. “It was a nightmare,” she says. “It still is.”

Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, said the case could’ve been a training error. “We heard of a case like that at Swedish. We heard that it was a training problem.” Charbonneau explains, “In the wake of the hospital alliance, there was a lot of confusion and fear among staff about what was permissible and what wasn’t.” Either way, the article raises way more questions than explanations: “Should patients trust that physicians, in good conscience and faith, are working for their best interests at Catholic hospitals? Should women? Should the LGBT community? Should terminally ill patients?” Those aren’t the types of musings you want to have when you’re in a hospital bed.

[The Stranger]

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin