Three years ago, I warned a religious war was being fought and won under the guise of medical acquisitions and mergers. Catholic hospitals were buying secular hospitals and imposing religious restrictions on procedures that had previously been available. (Blog 11/8/2013) Since that blog, the Catholic church has increased its grip on medical care in this country by several fold.
Writer, Stephanie Russel-Kraft reports since 2001 hospitals under religious control have increased by 21%. In some states, Alaska, Iowa, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin, the concentration is as high as 40 percent. (Ibid pg. 13.)
Today, one in every six hospital beds nationwide are subject to Catholic restrictions based on religious doctrine. Abortions or medical suicides are prohibited, as one might guess. But prohibitions extend to other medical services, too: prescribing birth control pills, implanting IUDs, distributing condoms, administering fertility treatments, and performing sterilization. (“Rise of the Zombie Hospitals,” by Stephanie Russel-Kraft, New Republic, Dec. 2016, pg. 12.)
As Russel-Kraft points out, during the heat of merger talks, these religious restrictions tend to get ignored. Small communities, glad to keep their hospital open, rarely bring up the subject. The surprise comes once the deal is signed and a new governance is in place. Imagine the surprise of one Jewish hospital in Colorado when it learned it must conform to Catholic theology. (Ibid pg. 13.) Some physicians invent creative work-arounds to serve their patients, but how long their strategy will succeed is in question.
Only 6 states require public hearings on any proposed hospital mergers. 9 others require a citizen to sit on the review board. I’ve served in that capacity in my state and, as a citizen, I found I had little clout. Catholic doctrine is intractable, as one woman learned. She was a pro-lifer with a complicated pregnancy. The baby in her womb was no longer viable and was endangering her life. Nonetheless, the woman almost died while her doctor defended her medical rights with authorities. Stunned the woman complained, “Whose life was being save here?” (Ibid pg. 13.) ,
The answer to the woman’s question is simple. What matters most in a Catholic affiliated hospital is religious cannon.