Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bishop Olmsted strips St. Joseph's of Catholic Status

Click to read the actual decree by Bishop Olmsted.  Below is his statement which goes with this decree.

I have a lot in this post, from video of Bishop Olmsted in press conference to some questions I have about St. Joseph's claim that pulmonary hypertension was causing the mother to die at just 11 weeks of pregnancy.  Something is very strange about that and I raise some questions at the bottom of my post, but not before showing that pulmonary hypertension in pregnancy is being treated with increasing success - saving mother and baby.  Any hospital worth it's salt would be interested to know what is working for others and to call them in for consultation, rather than rely on outdated text books.

Here is a video which was just released. The bishop reads the statement for which I have full text below. There is also about a 15 minute Q & A.

Here is the letter by Bishop Olmsted that accompanies the decree shown above. 

Full Text of Bishop Olmsted's Statement (text shown in brackets was in the video and not in the text released earlier today):
St. Joseph’s Hospital no longer Catholic
Statement of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted
December 21, 2010

Jesus says (Cf. Mt 25:40), “Whatever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.”

Caring for the sick is an essential part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Throughout our history, the Church has provided great care and love to those in need. With the advent of Catholic hospitals, the faithful could also be confident that they were able to receive quality health care according to the teachings of the Church.

Authentic Catholic care in the institutions of Catholic Healthcare West(CHW) in the Diocese of Phoenix has been a topic of discussion between CHW and me from the time of our initial meeting nearly seven years ago.

At that first meeting, I learned that CHW already did not comply with the ethical teachings of the Church at Chandler Regional Hospital. The moral guide for Hospitals and Healthcare Institutions is spelled out in what are called the Ethical and Religious Directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I objected strongly to CHW’s lack of compliance with these directives, and told CHW leaders that this constituted cooperation in evil that must be corrected; because if a healthcare entity wishes to call itself Catholic (as in “Catholic” Healthcare West), it needs to adhere to the teachings of the Church in all of its institutions. In all my seven years as Bishop of Phoenix, I have continued to insist that this scandalous situation needed to change; sadly, over the course of these years, CHW has chosen not to comply.

Then, earlier this year, it was brought to my attention that an abortion had taken place at St. Joseph’s

Hospital in Phoenix. When I met with officials of the hospital to learn more of the details of what had occurred, it became clear that, in the decision to abort, the equal dignity of mother and her baby were not both upheld; but that the baby was directly killed, which is a clear violation of ERD #45. It also was clear that the exceptional cases, mentioned in ERD #47, were not met, that is, that there was not a cancerous uterus or other grave malady that might justify an indirect and unintended termination of the life of the baby to treat the grave illness. In this case, the baby was healthy and there were no problems with the pregnancy; rather, the mother had a disease that needed to be treated. But instead of treating the disease, St. Joseph’s medical staff and ethics committee decided that the healthy, 11-week-old baby should be directly killed. This is contrary to the teaching of the Church (Cf. Evangelium Vitae, #62).

It was thus my duty to declare to the person responsible for this tragic decision that allowed an abortion at St. Joseph’s, Sister Margaret McBride, R.S.M., that she had incurred an excommunication by her formal consent to the direct taking of the life of this baby. I did this in a confidential manner, hoping to spare her public embarrassment. [That it became public was not my doing, or anyone who works for me]

Unfortunately, subsequent communications with leadership at St. Joseph’s Hospital and CHW have only eroded my confidence about their commitment to the Church’s Ethical and Religious Directives for Healthcare. They have not addressed in an adequate manner the scandal caused by the abortion. Moreover, I have recently learned that many other violations of the ERDs have been taking place at CHW facilities in Arizona throughout my seven years as Bishop of Phoenix and far longer.

Let me explain.

CHW and St. Joseph’s Hospital, as part of what is called “Mercy Care Plan”, have been formally cooperating with a number of medical procedures that are contrary to the ERDs, for many years. I was never made aware of this fact until the last few weeks. Here are some of the things which CHW has been formally responsible for throughout these years:

• Contraceptive counseling, medications, supplies and associated medical and laboratory examinations, including, but not limited to, oral and injectable contraceptives, intrauterine devices, diaphragms, condoms, foams and suppositories;

• Voluntary sterilization (male and female); and

• Abortions due to the mental or physical health of the mother or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. This information was given to me in a meeting which included an administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital who admitted that St. Joseph’s and CHW are aware that this plan consists in formal cooperation in evil actions which are contrary to Church teaching.
The Mercy Care Plan has been in existence for 26 years, includes some 368,000 members, and its 2010 revenues will reach nearly $2 billion. CHW and St. Joseph’s Hospital have made more than a hundred million dollars every year from this partnership with the government.

In light of all these failures to comply with the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Church, it is my duty to decree that, in the Diocese of Phoenix, at St. Joseph’s Hospital, CHW is not committed to following the teaching of the Catholic Church and therefore this hospital cannot be considered Catholic.

The Catholic faithful are free to seek care or to offer care at St. Joseph’s Hospital but I cannot guarantee that the care provided will be in full accord with the teachings of the Church. In addition, other measures will be taken to avoid the impression that the hospital is authentically Catholic, such as the prohibition of celebrating Mass at the hospital and the prohibition of reserving the Blessed Sacrament in the Chapel.

For seven years now, I have tried to work with CHW and St. Joseph’s, and I have hoped and prayed that this day would not come, that this decree would not be needed; however, the faithful of the Diocese have a right to know whether institutions of this importance are indeed Catholic in identity and practice.

For more information, please contact Rob DeFrancesco, Director of Communications • (602) 354-2130 • rdefrancesco@diocesephoenix.org

Statement of St. Josephs (source)
“Though we are deeply disappointed, we will be steadfast in fulfilling our mission,” said Linda Hunt, President of St. Joseph’s. “St. Joseph’s hospital will remain faithful to our mission of care, as we have for the last 115 years. Our caregivers deliver extraordinary medical care and share an unmatched commitment to the wellbeing of the communities they serve. Nothing has or will change in that regard.”

Hunt emphasized that the hospital will not change its name or its mission, which were both established by the Sisters of Mercy in 1895. “St. Joseph’s will continue through our words and deeds to carry out the healing ministry of Jesus,” Hunt said. “Our operations, policies, and procedures will not change.”

The announcement by Bishop Olmsted follows months of complex talks between the Phoenix Diocese, the hospital, and the hospital’s parent company, Catholic Healthcare West. At issue is the life-saving care delivered to a pregnant patient in November 2009 at St. Joseph’s. In that case, a decision was made to terminate an 11-week pregnancy in order to save the mother’s life.

“Consistent with our values of dignity and justice, if we are presented with a situation in which a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life, our first priority is to save both patients. If that is not possible we will always save the life we can save, and that is what we did in this case,” said Hunt. “We continue to stand by the decision, which was made in collaboration with the patient, her family, her caregivers, and our Ethics Committee. Morally, ethically, and legally we simply cannot stand by and let someone die whose life we might be able to save.”

As an aside, there is no way for a doctor to say with certainty that the patient would have died.   Doctors use statistical and other data as guidelines, but in the end that is all they are - guidelines.  Here is a sampling of various kinds of cases where women were given no hope, but they and/or their babies survived:

Here is a doctor talking about the notion of killing a healthy baby to "save the life of the mother".  He's not buying it and it goes along similar lines as Dr. Zwicke in that last story.  It was contained in this LifeSiteNews story back when it was announced that Sister McBride had excommunicated herself.  Here is a clip. My comments are bracketed in red; emphases mine in bold.

Dr. Paul A. Byrne, Director of Neonatology and Pediatrics at St. Charles Mercy Hospital in Toledo, Ohio, disputes the claim that an abortion is ever a procedure necessary to save the life of the mother, or carries less risk than birth.

In an interview with LifeSiteNews, Dr. Byrne said, “I don’t know of any [situation where abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother].

“I know that a lot of people talk about these things, but I don’t know of any. The principle always is preserve and protect the life of the mother and the baby.”

Byrne has the distinction of being a pioneer in the field of neonatology, beginning his work in the field in 1963 and becoming a board-certified neonatologist in 1975. He invented one of the first oxygen masks for babies, an incubator monitor, and a blood-pressure tester for premature babies, which he and a colleague adapted from the finger blood pressure checkers used for astronauts. [Looks pretty qualified to me to have an opinion on the subject of pulmonary hypertension in pregnant women]

Byrne emphasized that he was not commentating on what the woman’s particular treatment should have been under the circumstances, given that she is not his patient. [He was referring to the case at St. Joseph's in Phoenix]

“But given just pulmonary hypertension, the answer is no” to abortion, said Byrne.

Byrne emphasized that the unborn child at 11 weeks gestation would have a negligible impact on the woman’s cardiovascular system. He said that pregnancy in the first and second trimesters would not expose a woman with even severe pulmonary hypertension – which puts stress on the heart and the lungs – to any serious danger. [What he says is pretty consistent with this emedicine article on Pregnancy and Hypertension.]

A pregnant mother’s cardiovascular system does have “major increases,” but they only happen “in the last three months of pregnancy,” [!] Byrne explained.

The point of fetal viability is estimated at anywhere between 21 - 24 weeks, at which point he speculated the baby could have been artificially be delivered and had a good shot at surviving. In the meantime the mother’s pulmonary hypertension could be treated, even by such simple things as eliminating salt from her diet, exercising, or losing weight.

“It’s not going to be any extra stress on the mother that she can’t stand,” said Byrne. “Eventually you get to where the baby gets big enough that the baby can live outside the uterus and you don’t have to do an abortion.”

“I am only aware of good things happening by doing that. I am not aware of anything bad happening to the mother because the baby was allowed to live.”

“The only reason to kill the baby at 11 weeks is because it is smaller,” [!] which makes the abortion easier to perform, he said, not because the mother’s life is in immediate danger.  [This goes to what I said about the questionable nature of the hospital's claim that it had to kill a baby, 11 weeks into gestation to save the life of mother]

“I’ve done this work just about as long as neonatology has existed,” said Byrne. “The key is we must protect and preserve life, and we have to do that from conception to the natural end.” [Right on!]

"Saving the Life of the Mother" or Saving Money?

Let's look at an angle on this case not being discussed in the secular media...

As long as a hospital has convinced itself that treating pulmonary hypertension in pregnant women is a win-lose situation ("save" the mother; kill the baby), it absolves itself of exploring win-win solutions (mother and baby survive) that have proven hopeful or even downright successful.  Mortality rate is high using conventional treatment methods on true pulmonary hypertension in pregnancy (that is, in 2nd/3rd trimester - the Phoenix case involved a 1st trimester case).  Further, if you read how Dr. Zwicke treats such patients you will learn that fatality often happens in the days following delivery.  She puts mothers through aggressive fluid reduction treatment as soon as the baby is delivered to mitigate this risk.

If one doctor saved 45 out of 45 consecutive cancer patients who had a 60% chance of dying, there would be people flying in from all around the world to see what she was doing right.  But we aren't talking about cancer.  We are talking about pregnancy in a culture increasingly using murder as a legitimate option to solve expensive problems and matters of inconvenience.  St. Joseph's would do well to serve it's patients by asking Dr. Dianne Zwicke to come in for a consultation so that they don't have to resort to outdated and barbaric methods to deal with what is an increasingly treatable condition. 

There is one other set of questions we ought to ponder.  What is the cost of putting up a mother in the hospital for as long as it takes to get her stable by medications, salt reduction, weight loss, and/or the baby to viability?  It costs only a few hundred dollars to perform an abortion and everyone moves on.  That is far lower than the cost of just putting someone in a hospital room for a week and giving them three squares a day, setting aside medical care.  This says nothing of the cost a hospital or insurance company can have if the baby is delivered prematurely and needs intensive care for several weeks.  I'm not saying this is the case in Phoenix, however, it raises more questions:

Were such financial issues in the decision-making process in the Phoenix case?   Once again, I raise the question because something doesn't add up to say that at 11 weeks (1st Trimester), this baby threatened the life of the mother.  I can't seem to find anything in the medical literature I've gone over that would even suggest that pregnancy can cause life threatening pulmonary hypertension in the first trimester. 

Let us pray for the mother, the bishop and those at the hospital involved with this case. 

FURTHER REFERENCES and LINKS (may be updated)

Back in February, Bishop Vasa in Oregon yanked Catholic status from a hospital that was performing voluntary sterlizations.

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