Journalism in the Public Interest

Catholic Hospitals Grow, and With Them Questions of Care

Women and gays in Washington state are bracing for limits on care, and calling for public debate.

Abortion rights supporters hold a rally at the state Capitol in February 2013, in support of a measure that would require most insurers in Washington state to cover abortion. Now, after a wave of mergers and alliances between Catholic hospital chains and secular community hospitals, some Washington state residents are worried services like abortions will no longer be as widely available. (Rachel La Corte/AP Photo)

Oct. 17: This story has been corrected.

Over the past few years, Washington state’s liberal voters have been on quite a roll. Same-sex marriage? Approved. Assisted suicide? Check. Legalized pot? That too. Strong abortion protections? Those have been in place for decades.

Now, though, the state finds itself in the middle of a trend that hardly anyone there ever saw coming: a wave of mergers and alliances between Catholic hospital chains and secular, taxpayer-supported community hospitals. By the end of this year, the ACLU estimates, nearly half of Washington’s hospital beds could be under Catholic influence or outright control.

Many of the deals have been reached in near secrecy, with minimal scrutiny by regulators. Virtually all involve providers in Western Washington, which voted heavily for same-sex marriage last November and the Death with Dignity Act in 2008. The cultural divide between the region’s residents (Seattle recently edged out San Francisco as the area with the largest proportion of gay couples) and the Catholic Church (whose local archbishop led the effort against marriage equality and is overseeing a Vatican crackdown on independent-minded American nuns) couldn’t be wider. And yet more and more hospitals there — sustained by taxpayers, funded by Medicare, Medicaid, and other government subsidies — could be bound by church restrictions on birth control, sterilization and abortion, fertility treatments, genetic testing, and assisted suicide.

In affected communities, the news is not going over well.

“It’s the perfect storm here,” said Kathy Reim, president of Skagit PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) north of Seattle, where four area hospitals have been in merger talks this year. “We are the only state that has all these rights and privileges available to our citizens. Yet many of our hospital beds are being managed by a system that, for the most part, cannot and will not honor these rights and laws.”

Meanwhile, the deals just keep coming. Earlier this month, hospital commissioners approved a letter of intent between Skagit Valley Hospital and PeaceHealth, a Catholic enterprise that runs nine medical centers and dozens of clinics in three states. The week before, Franciscan Health System (which already has six hospitals in the region) said it would affiliate with an acute-care facility in the sprawling suburbs south of Seattle. In mid- September, UW Medicine, which includes the University of Washington’s teaching centers, signed a “strategic collaboration” with PeaceHealth to provide advanced specialized in-patient care.

In all, Washington has seen at least 10 completed or proposed Catholic-secular affiliations in the past three years, more than anywhere else in the country, says Sheila Reynertson of MergerWatch, a New York-based nonprofit group that tracks hospital consolidations. Three of the state’s five largest health-care systems are Catholic.

Catholic providers have actually been an integral part of Washington state’s health-care infrastructure since the late 1800s, when nuns from the East Coast and Europe braved rain and worse to minister to loggers and miners in remote outposts around the region. A century later, those historical ties — and their relative robustness — have made them attractive partners for community hospitals for whom the choice is: affiliate or get crushed.

“It’s harder than ever before for independent health-care organizations to thrive without alliances,” said PeaceHealth spokesman Tim Strickland. One of the main reasons: health-care reform. “It’s happening all over the country, with all kinds of providers,” he said. “We don’t perceive this trend as a Catholic scenario so much as a health-care scenario.” (Indeed, the consulting firm Booz & Company predicts that a fifth of the nation’s 5,000 hospitals could merge over the next few years.)

In some places — including big swaths of Western Washington — Catholic providers are becoming the only source of health care for an entire region. (Approximately 8 percent of what the federal government calls “sole community hospitals” are Catholic.)

The dilemma is that Catholic hospitals — there are 630 or so in the United States, representing 15 percent of all admissions every year — are not independent entities. They are bound by a 43-page document called the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which have been around in some form since 1921 and were last revised by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2009.

The 72 directives explicitly ban abortion and sterilization. They restrict other types of care as well, including emergency contraception for rape victims (“It is not permissible... to initiate or to recommend treatments [for sexual assault] that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum”), in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination (“contrary to the covenant of marriage, the unity of the spouses, and the dignity proper to parents and the child”), surrogate pregnancy, and anything that remotely resembles assisted suicide (the bishops’ preferred term is “euthanasia”).

Then there’s this:

5. Catholic health care services must adopt these Directives as policy, require adherence to them within the institution as a condition for medical privileges and employment, and provide appropriate instruction regarding the Directives for administration, medical and nursing staff, and other personnel.

Over the years, the ERDs have had their greatest impact on women and people too sick or poor to look around for another provider. Some states (including Washington) have laws requiring emergency birth control, but there have been numerous reports of Catholic-affiliated doctors and nurses who were prevented from treating female patients — including pregnant women with serious complications — in accordance with best medical practices and the patients’ own wishes. In a study last year by researchers at the University of Chicago, 52 percent of OB/GYNs affiliated with Catholic providers reported having conflicts over religious policies dictating medical care.

But the ERDs are guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules. Depending on the local bishop, Catholic providers have a certain amount of leeway in how they interpret them. In Washington state, religious hospitals have been more willing than in some other places to negotiate and accommodate their partners’ concerns — an attitude Reynertson and others call “Catholic lite.”

PeaceHealth, for example, “strongly respects the patient-physician relationship and decisions that are made jointly by physicians and patients in the best interests of those patients,” Strickland said. This means that it will allow its affiliates to dispense birth control and do emergency abortions to save the life of the mother, he said. Franciscan is seen as being stricter, but even so, its secular partner in the small city of Bremerton is continuing to perform tubal ligations on women immediately after they give birth — the medical standard in most hospitals for women seeking such procedures, but verboten in most Catholic ones.

But usually, it’s the non-religious partner that has to give. The most high-profile example involves Swedish Health Services, a secular hospital system that partnered last year with Providence Health & Services. Like most of the recent Washington deals, this one was a kind of workaround, crafted to protect Swedish’s autonomy, reassure its patients, and mollify its critics. “To ensure Providence remained Catholic and Swedish remained secular, the partnership was intentionally structured as an affiliation, not a merger or acquisition,” Swedish said in a statement to ProPublica, adding: “As a secular organization, Swedish is not subject” to the ERDs. Among other things, this allows it to continue providing the full range of birth control services, including tubal ligations and vasectomies.

But a few days after the partnership was announced, Swedish said it would stop doing elective abortions, which it had been offering as part of its reproductive health services for years. Instead, it gave $2 million to Planned Parenthood to open a clinic adjacent to Swedish’s main Seattle hospital.

By structuring deals as “affiliations,” “partnerships” or “collaborations,” hospitals gain another advantage: sidestepping regulators. Washington’s process for scrutinizing hospital mergers only kicks in if there’s a sale, purchase or lease of an existing hospital, but most of the recent agreements have stopped short of that line. Thus, the Swedish-Providence deal did not go through a full review, even though the combined health care system is by far the largest in the state. Nor did Franciscan’s affiliation with Harrison Medical Center, the only full-service hospital serving much of the hard-to-reach Kitsap Peninsula and nearby islands, which ACLU-Washington criticized as “a thinly veiled ... transfer of assets” tantamount to a sale. Terms like “affiliation” and “alliance” leave “a lot of room to maneuver,” said the ACLU’s state legislative director, Shankar Narayan. “Without government oversight, once the camel’s nose is in the pen, you don’t have much control of where the affiliation is going to go.”

“The legitimate concern is: What happens to this relationship later?” Reynertson said. “Is this affiliation, this engagement, going to last? When are they going to get married? Once things like IT infrastructure ... are intertwined, a full merger may become inevitable. It’s a connection that can never be undone. And of course, at that point the mergers will be approved, because look how well they’re working already.”

Robb Miller, executive director of Compassion & Choices of Washington, which helped pass the state’s assisted-suicide law, doesn’t actually think things are working all that well right now. The Death With Dignity Act isn’t mandatory for providers, and even before the wave of mergers, many secular hospitals had opted not to dispense or administer lethal medications to terminally ill patients. The Catholic partnerships have drastically shrunk the pool of providers willing or able to help dying patients end their lives. Since PeaceHealth took over the public hospital serving Clark County (in the southwestern part of the state) in 2010, Miller says, doctors, nurses and social workers have stopped referring patients for counseling to groups like his. “They went from a secular organization with reasonably good policies on death with dignity to an organization with anti-choice policies based on the ERDs.” The practical result is that many terminally ill patients “simply lose their medical options” for a peaceful death, Miller said.

Strickland acknowledges that PeaceHealth forbids both physician-assisted suicide and elective abortions at its affiliates. But he insists that this not as big a change as it sounds, since many community hospitals don’t offer those health care options anyway. “We only go into communities where we’re invited,” he said, “and we have a very strong track record of adding services, not taking them away.”

But what about the future, asks PFLAG’s Reim. She notes that PeaceHealth and other Catholic-affiliated providers are unlikely to add health care services restricted by the ERDs.

“We’re expecting another 40,000 people to move to this part of the state,” she pointed out. Some of these newcomers are likely to be gay couples and transgender people who could find themselves unable get fertility treatments or hormonal therapy in their communities. “This isn’t just about protecting the rights of the people who already here, but the rights of the people who are coming,” she said.

For Mary Kay Barbieri, co-chair of a Skagit Valley group called People for Healthcare Freedom, the other big fear is that the Catholic Church and the men who run it could suddenly decide to take a harder line in how they interpret the ERDs. Or a Catholic lite provider could be gobbled up by one with stricter views, as almost happened this year when PeaceHealth and Franciscan's parent company, Colorado-based Catholic Health Initiatives, were in talks to merge (later scuttled). “That was very worrisome,” Barbieri said.

Meanwhile, the state’s largely hands-off attitude may be ending. This summer, Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, directed the Department of Health to update its hospital merger oversight process, while Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued an opinion requiring all public hospital districts that offer maternity services to also provide birth control and abortions. But how those orders will play out remains a very big question. “We will be watching closely,” Barbieri said.

Correction (10/17): An earlier version of this article said that after PeaceHealth took over the public hospital serving Clark County in 2010, it closed the hospice program. It actually did not discontinue that program.

The Director of CATHOLIC Medical Center, in Manchester, N.H., has a BASE salary of $1.3 MILLION / yr….and you wonder why Obamacare is such an expensive joke…???...

Bruce J Fernandes

Oct. 17, 2013, 2:12 p.m.

Just as a sidebar.  I recently was doing homework to determine which ACA-approved plan I would buy OUTSIDE the state alliance and found something interesting about a particular procedure a catholic health system will not pay for…. specifically, bariatric surgery of all kinds.

What they will pay for in the alternative is up to 60 weight loss classes.

What I found interesting about this is in effect that system is making its own judgment about the efficacy of a weight loss surgery that is generally recommended in cases of morbid obesity and other conditions directly tied to morbid obesity such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

My concern is non-Catholic insurance plans look at a provision like this and adopt their own alternatives to important medical procedures.  It is as if the catholic insurance plan is dissing the idea of a medical procedure for the morbidly obese in favor of something akin to “faith based” weight loss classes.

That being said the failure rate for those having bariatric surgery is 50%.  This is probably a function of inadequate preparation of patients and simply doing the procedure without much pre-planning.  Kaiser in California makes all bariatric patients go through a 26 week series of classes and expects a weight loss of 10% during that period of time.

My own expectation of state exchanges is they will become the political playground of state elected insurance commissioners who seek higher office.  Their claim to fame would be to tell voters how they kept premium increases in check.  But in order to do that insurance companies will come back with all sorts of ideas about health alternatives in return for muting rate increases.  I see more rationing over time, plans offering fewer options, longer wait times, etc.

The catholic insurance plan’s approach to bariatric surgery could become something we see being done by all insurance companies over time as a form of rationing.

I talk about bariatric surgery but superimpose any medical decision or procedure and you can see insurance companies negotiating for outcomes with state insurance commissioners in return for lower rate increases thus creating a slow, grinding, unending rationing of care.

Beverly Schlotterbeck

Oct. 17, 2013, 2:19 p.m.

I think you missed getting a comment from the Survivors of the Inquisition support group, who no doubt just like the rest of the groups represented here, are shaking in their boots at the thought of more Catholic hospitals.

Really, what a one-sided, anti-Catholic story.

Thank you to Bruce J. Fernandes for the description of another real, tangible example of how health care will change, reducing choice, without publicity. Additionally, I don’t understand how what seems to be a factual story is “one-sided, anti-Catholic”, although “the men who run it” might be considered a bit of a slam by some.

To answer people like Beverly Schlotterbeck, it is important to note that anyone can run a hospital.  Read the first sentence of the 2nd paragraph again closely.  Yep, secular run hospitals.  There is nothing about the Catholic church running the hospitals that is unique in regards to the quality of health services.

There is, however, something very unique about religiously run hospitals.  And that is in regards to what services will actually be offered which is always less.  There isn’t a religiously run hospital on the planet that offers services that a secular hospital is unable to provide.  That provides troubling concerns about providing proper care and optional services.

I guess some people have forgotten Savita Halappanavar.  A needless and extremely painful death solely because she went to a hospital where a strong Catholic ethos inhibited proper care.  Now for the shocking news, poor treatment for pregnancy related issues are actually fairly common at religiously run hospitals.

Things like birth control (whether pills or tying tubes or vascetomy) and abortion are complex issues that individuals need to decide for themselves; not options that should be unavailable because of a group who disagrees for their own narrow philosophies.

If you don’t get the concerns I’ve expressed by now, try considering what a hospital system would look like it was run by Jehovah Witnesses.  Now you have medical treatments that don’t involve obviously important services like blood transfusions or organ transplants.  You would be up in arms about that, wouldn’t you?  Then don’t act so surprised when people get concerned about a religious group taking over medical facilities that will apply their restrictions because of what they think is moral and pure.

Using the phrase “the men who run it” is not a slam, it’s factual. 100% of the Catholic Bishops and the Pope are all male.  And given that a large part of the controversy is about women’s reproductive rights, it’s a pertinent fact as well.

Bruce Johnson

Oct. 17, 2013, 6:04 p.m.

This is a consequence of the ongoing theocratization of America.

A hospital is not a church.
Corporations do not have religious rights.
Employers do not get to impose their religious beliefs on their employees.

The theocrats wish to erase all these distinctions.  Their ultimate aim is to impose their dogma on everyone with the force of law.

Please remember—you don’t want to be a patient in ANY hospital unless it is ABSOLUTELY necessary.

Secondly, find a family doctor/surgeon who has privileges at the hospital of your choice.

After years of working in and volunteering in both secular and religious hospitals—I wouldn’t be in any hospital unless I was in great danger of dying.

I seem to recall perhaps sometime in the 80’s that there was much angst about the Catholic Hospitals buying up the hospitals in Oakland, CA on what was referred to as Hospital Hill. The controversy seemed to have died.

This is an article that I view as a sh⁢ stirrer.

The writer of this article presumably would be irked to go to a vegan restaurant and not find steak on the menu, or annoyed by the poor bacon selection at a kosher eatery. Catholics as a matter faith don’t do abortion or assisted suicide. I don’t agree with either teaching, but I understand them. Shouldn’t we be asking why secular hospitals can’t stand on their own? Could we possibly have a flawed health care system and a financially chaotic system for paying for it?

Peter, pardon my turning your question around on you:  Would you be understanding of a hospital run on the premise that Germ Theory is a fraud?  What about that a particular ethnic or religious group is a blight on the world that should be exterminated instead of healed?

I’m not suggesting Catholics do any such thing, but it should be deeply worrisome that their pass on law will eventually permit others to pick and choose in much more horrifying ways.  Why not found a church on the premise that people with pre-existing conditions shouldn’t be treated?

I’m all for diversity.  But elevating diversity above the law opens the doors to dismissing atrocities because, “oh, it’s just the way these lesser people want to live.”

Bruce J Fernandes

Oct. 18, 2013, 10:37 a.m.

This catholic hospital system debate is turning into a political debate because ACA is imposing upon the beliefs of catholics who do not support birth control.

Germ theory and the rest of these non starters fail to reflect the reality of the market which is even catholics would turn away from a catholic hospital system if they engaged in a belief system that was so contrary to known medical outcomes that they felt their lives were at risk.

Obama could have given in to catholics on birth control.  The fact that he refuses tells us more about his true orthodoxy and focus than any other singular issue.  Only communists have truly engaged in the full elimination of religious choice within their own spheres of influence.

If religious group cannot follow the law they should not be able to run hospitals, period.  Nobody shoul have their health or life put at risk because the only hospital within miles put arbitrary dogma before patient care.

For me, the bottom line is THIS:
If the Roamin’ Calf-licker Church wants to run a hospital, it should not receive even ONE PENNY of tax-payer funding…and it should not be ALLOWED to admit ANY non-Catholics…
That’s my belief…

Bruce J Fernandes

Oct. 18, 2013, 11:32 a.m.


Is there some link between birth control and the direct operation of a hospital?  I don’t think so because hospitals as a general matter do not dispense birth control.  You show your own dogma and anger at a hospital system that formed in a time and in places where hospitals never formed.  They put community above profits.

You are doing nothing more than showing anger and hatred for a hospital system that was not formed for profit and has saved countless lives over the generations because of generous behavior by in large by the private sector.

Bradford, your belief is to trash religion which is your right but I would hate to think that if you were in an accident of some kind and the closest hospital was a catholic hospital that you would be denied treatment because you were not catholic.  Or are you more willing to die for your principles which IMO makes you appear to be yet another hater of religion.

I am not catholic but I believe in the right of all religions to have certain reasonable bounds within their religion as long as they do not put upon all of us their beliefs.

Your vitriol is so clear and way over the top and insulting to one of the world’s great religions at a time where the leader of the catholic church is making changes within the church of a kind I never thought we would see in this lifetime.

Monica Harrington

Oct. 18, 2013, 11:58 a.m.

What many people fail to understand is that is an issue not just of hospitals, but of whole health systems, including physician practices and labs.  And the bishops are gaining control using taxpayer dollars.  On San Juan Island in NW Washington State, the medical center/hospital, which includes physicians providing primary care, is Catholic owned and controlled and gets a direct tax subsidy.

When Catholic health systems forbid contraception, they often do it not just in a hospital setting but for all the physician practices and pharmacies they control as well.  Which means women can’t get IUDs or other safe long-acting, reversible contraceptives in the appropriate health care setting. 

Lots of issues.  The central point is why do religious systems get to use taxpayer dollars to impose their beliefs on other people?

A lot of anti-Catholic diatribin” goin’ on here. For all anti-Catholics and Catholics, the First Amendment protects your right to religious freedom and the government cannot force you to participate in an action that violates your religious beliefs. When religions own hospitals, they too have this right. There is no shortage of cheap contraceptive services in this country for those who want them.

Go ahead, take away the tax exemption, the Catholic hospitals will be stronger in the end, and then where is your excuse to have them violate their religious beliefs.

While I do think that bashing Catholicism is the latest fad, and while I also think that The RCC doesn’t get nearly enough kudos for the good that it is (especially by the sisters and nuns), there is little that is compassionate about US RCC hospitals.  Especially if they are run by the laity, their prime directive seems to be to punish rather than to really care for the whole person/patient.

And, yes, absolutely, the tax exemption should be taken away from all religious entities!  I’ve never been able to figure out why they get to pay less or no taxes.

If the first ammendment says we cannot be forced to do something thst violates my religious belief why do I have to support war snd cspitol punishment to name 2. If something is legal then no religon should force their belief on those who are not their believers.Remember the fiasco of sharia law.

Monica Harrington

Oct. 18, 2013, 3:40 p.m.

For people who want to minimize this and say it’s just about tax exempt status, which is available to any nonprofit, it’s not.  It’s about DIRECT TAX SUBSIDIES and Catholic institutions being allowed monopoly power in areas where people have no other choices.

In Washington State, three Catholic bishops control “moral” policy for almost half the healthcare system in the State.  Would people stand for tax-subsidized Muslim healthcare overseen by conservative imams?

Bruce J Fernandes

Oct. 18, 2013, 4:07 p.m.

The posts I read and the vitriol of one of the great religions in the world simply reminds me that Obama has succeeded in his street organizer strategy of having everybody tearing away at each other; from limb to limb.

Class, race, religion, this is EXACTLY what the communists did in the old Soviet Union and its satellite countries.

Once Obama is out of office and the people of this country start to truly reflect on his presidency will this truth become self-evident.

Monica Harrington

Oct. 18, 2013, 4:22 p.m.

@Anne - I love it when people say it’s Catholic bashing to object when Catholic bishops use tax dollars to control health care for half the citizens in a state.  I’m curious:

Is it Muslim bashing to say that Muslims imams shouldn’t be able to use our tax dollars to impose religious restrictions on nonMuslims?

Is it Jewish bashing to say that Jewish rabbis shouldn’t be able to use our tax dollars to impose Jewish restrictions on nonJews?

Is it Jehovah’s Witness bashing to say that JH followers shouldn’t be able to use our tax dollars to run health care systems that disallow blood transfusions?

When Thomas Jefferson said, “No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever,” are you suggesting that Catholic health care ministries (their preferred term) should be the exception?

As a WA resident it’s interesting to read this article because I had no idea it was happening. I live on the eastern side of the state (in WA we tend to divide the state along the Cascade mountain range) and nothing like that is going on over here.

I can think of two large scale religious (not just Catholic, religious) hospitals in WA off the top of my head. Our Lady of Lourdes in the Tri-Cities, and another which I can’t recall the name in Spokane. Having lived in the Tri-Cities, Lourdes is the smallest of the three major hospital networks in the area.

Western WA is highly liberal whereas eastern WA is mildly conservative. Politically that means the eastern 3/4 gets ignored with nearly all the representatives and senators out of the Seattle/Tacoma area or Olympia. So bear in mind that anything regarding the law or “public opinion” in Washington comes almost exclusively from the highly liberal population majority in the geographic minority.

M Bennet Broner, PhD

Oct. 18, 2013, 6:42 p.m.

Hospitals and health care facilities occupy a unique niche in that though they may be religiously operated or structured as a for-profit, they nonetheless have an ethical duty to provide care on a broad basis. If a polity supports abortion, for example, then it is the responsibility of any appropriate organization operating in that state to adhere to the regulations and laws of that polity. As Christ said, “Render unto Caesar” or as is a maxim in Jewish Law, the law of the land takes precedence when one is operating outside of his/her own community: and hospitals by their very nature serve multiple communities. If they limited themselves to purely Catholic patients, then their internal regulations should be supreme.

I remember a graduate health care ethics course I was involved in several years ago. The question was put to the class as to whether a pharmacist’s personal ethics or his professional ethics was more important in the provision of RU486. Though the school was deep within a ‘red state’, the class unanimously supported professional over personal ethics. It was their contention that if a pharmacist could not abide by the ethics of her profession, she should not be in that profession.

I am well aware of the First Amendment and its support for religious freedom. However, this clause was meant to be in support of the overall foundations of the Constitution, which were equity and equality. Thus, if religious based hospitals believe they must be true to their ethics rather than the regulations of a polity, they should neither accept nor be eligible for tax payer money, at least on the state level. If they do accept this money, then they need to adhere to the regulations of the geographic region in which they operate.

Sadly, however, Catholic hospitals, as with other businesses, can decline to provide a service based on its cost or lack of ROI; and this would be legitimate. Thus, even if forced to adhere to regulations, there is still a means by which these health organizations may circumvent regulatory intent.

Byard Pidgeon

Oct. 18, 2013, 9:18 p.m.

WA’s DWD act will definitely be affected. Peace Health is not “lite” on this issue. In supposedly progressive Eugene OR it is very difficult to find a physician to write a DWD prescription, because there is the possibility that Peace Health will deny or rescind hospital privileges at the area’s largest hospital.
My friend with terminal cancer suffered a great deal of anxiety because of this, in the final stages. Compassion and Choices searched for weeks to find a prescriber, eventually finding a doctor with prescribing ability who no longer needed hospital privileges with PH.

Byard—great—DWD is one of the main reasons I’m moving to Oregon.  [I’m going to need it in a few years.]  And I’m moving specifically to Eugene because I have family there.  Pls don’t tell me that DWD won’t be available there when I need it.

Stanley Ianieri

Oct. 19, 2013, 6:31 a.m.

Religons have a right to practice as they see fit and the gov enfringe upon that right. The Catholic Church is following the highest law in land, the Constitution. I also want to say that Catholics are not taking over but fulfilling a need to those communities where the might close to the potential that might close if the affiation does work. Thirdly, for who want such services as abortion what would happen to healthcare if there were no hospitals in those areas where hospitals were failing, then no one would have adequate heslcare. If people, groups, the Washington State governor don’t like the affiliations then I suggest these support the failing hospitals financially at taxpayer expense to keep them open. See when go up even higher to support them rather then the merger.

@Fran…I think I told you exactly that…DWD is legally available, but in Eugene my best friend went through great anxiety because no doctor would prescribe the medication.
In some cases, this was because they don’t believe in DWD…but in most it was fear of losing Peace Health hospital privileges.
The physician Compassion and Choices finally found, after weeks, was semi-retired, didn’t need PH hospital.
Compassion and Choices isn’t upfront about this problem in Eugene…the official line is that there are no problems…but I went through this with my friend and know better.

In response to Bruce Fernandez, ’  Only communists have truly engaged in the full elimination of religious choice within their own spheres of influence.”

No; In the holy roman empire heretics were burnt, imprisoned, tortured, etc.
After Henry VIII, the Church of England was the sole authority.  In the colonies, the Puritans banned Quakers,  Maryland required EVERYONE to pay taxes to support the Catholic Church.  More recently and locally, just a few years ago there was outrage by ‘christians’ over building one mosque in different cities with dozens of chrisian (ha ha) churches.  Couldn’t ban by law, but banned in effect by zoning and threats.
Religious Choice?  How many Presidents have we elected who openly admitted that he did not believe in the deity as expressed by zealots.  No they keep quiet and their views are ‘eliminated’ from the public view.  Consider the furor by idiots who claimed Obama might be a secret moslem.  Almost all societies work to eliminate different religions.

Byard—aren’t there any other hospitals in Eugene??  What about getting a DWD from a MD in, say, Portland or Salem?  This is very important to me.  I’ve got, at best, only 4 more years.

Byard ~

Aren’t there any other hospitals in Eugene??  What about getting a DWD from a MD in, say, Portland or Salem?  This is very important to me.  I’ve got, at best, only 4 more years.

@Fran…PH is the major hospital, dwarfing the other, McKenzie-Willamette. There may be a very small osteopathic (DO) hospital remaining.
I’d advise getting in touch with Compassion and Choices as soon as you decide when to move, and see if they can help you find a physician who is willing to prescribe and is accepting patients, then sign up with that person…no matter what specialty, just get involved so you’re known and understood.
The laws are clear, but as usual are evaded by zealots who don’t want choices for others.

Bruce J Fernandes

Oct. 19, 2013, 11:54 a.m.

Perhaps I should have said communists had the most success at the full elimination of religion during their height of power.  All other examples in history fell short because of the power of the individual o triumph over the state.

Too late.  I contacted Mr. Pidgeon (yes, his real name), and we had a nice long phone chat.  Got all the info I needed.  I guess you just allow freedom of speech only when it pertains to bashing The RCC—or bashing anything for that matter.  Of course, all that bashing makes good reading, doesn’t it.

The RCC does not believe in freedom of conscience.  This is the prime reason why the RCC clergy try to oppress those who do not slavishly agree to what the clergy preach. 
Historically, the RCC has been as biased and unfair as any other organization in history.  It preaches charity and purity, but practices the opposite.
I was raised RCC, but as an adult saw through its hypocrisy and error.

My husband has been the CEO of several hospitals for Ascension Health, the nation’s largest catholic health organization, for the last forty years. And I can tell you first hand that a hospital being catholic owned has cost women their lives numerous times.  I lost count long ago of the number of times a bishop stepped in and ordered physicians not to perform a life saving procedure on a pregnant woman admitted with a tubal pregnancy. Over and over these women must be transferred to nearby secular hospitals in order to save their life!  So don’t give me any of this “anti-catholic” bullshit claims by other comments. This is literally women’s lives we are dealing with here.

Melinda, I knew the CEO of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange County, CA, for years.  Even 30 years ago, women with tubal pregnancies were able to have those pregnancies terminated.  Because both mother and child will die without the procedure.  No mother and no child.  The RCC isn’t THAT stupid.  And in The US, American bishops don’t step in and tell doctors what to do on specific patients.  Because the doctors don’t ask the bishops what they should do.  Catholic hospitals have established policies, such as no abortion, and the doctors on staff and with privileges adhere to those policies.  And that’s it.  And no Catholic hospital I’ve even known forbids the termination of tubal pregnancies, because those pregnancies are not considered real pregnancies.  What country does your husband work in?  Because it’s not The US.  Does sound like some countries in South America, though.

And, Lou, of course The RCC allows freedom of conscience.  At least in the last 40 years.  I practiced birth control from the time I was married (44 years ago) to the time I got divorced 20 years later.  My parish priests always knew that I did.  Sisters I became friends with knew it.  Those priests and sisters didn’t consider it an issue for me and for the other parishioners who practiced birth control.  If fact, the priests and sisters were very pro birth control (quietly, of course).  The Maryknoll Missionaries have been teaching their parishioners, in poverty-stricken foreign countries, how to use and practice birth control for decades. 

All The Church basically wants its members to believe in is The Nicene Creed—and if you can’t do that—then why be Catholic, right?  No one has to believe in all the stuff The Church just made up.

Come on, people.  Gimme a break.  Yes, The Church has a lot of problems and always has—and that’s why I left—but it’s not totally stupid.

Fran just because that was your experience doesn’t mean that is the case at every other catholic owned hospital. You are wrong. It has happened and IS happening here in the southeast. It happened as recently as this past July. And my husband continually deals with bishops stepping in and making medical decisions about particular patients. And it is not an isolated event. It has happened in several states where he runs hospitals. You’re in denial if you think it doesn’t.

Melinda, I’m so sorry—you’re right.  I just did some quick—I mean, real quick and superficial research on the web—and you’re right.  OMG.  Catholic hospitals are letting these women die rather than take the fetus from the fallopian tube!  This should be absolutely against the law!!  What is going on here??!!

Bruce J Fernandes

Oct. 20, 2013, 2:13 p.m.

What should bother everyone a lot more is how the Obama administration has set out through its policy prescriptions to create an environment where everyone is tearing away at each other and the fabric of America.

Obama, a street hustler I mean activist learned that you can pit everyone against each other based upon class, race, religion and while all this fighting is going on Obama continues on his journey; trying to reorder and restructure America.

Rather than focusing on Catholic hospitals we should all be more concerned about the impact of ACA on the entire hospital system.

If ACA accomplishes its goals the entire medical system in the US is in danger of becoming a Medicaid system where we all get the same level of healthcare except the poor get more and still don’t pay anything and the middle class ends up footing the tab and getting less quality healthcare than before ACA.

You can continue tearing away at each other which is exactly what Obama wants happening so that no one keeps their eye on the much bigger, broader ball; the entire healthcare delivery system in the USA.

Melinda, I think he just meant that if you’re working for an immoral employer, the higher road is to quit.  However, we all know that is easier said that done.

But ya would think that over 40 years, he could have found another job.  I applied for a job, in the government legal sector, and I told them I would not work in the criminal section because I did not (and do not) agree with our criminal justice system.  I was willing to give up the job if I had to work in that area.  I was told I wouldn’t have to work in criminal, and I didn’t—the whole almost 30 years I worked there.  In some ways, it was just splitting hairs, but I could at least live with myself.

Mellinda, the only “bullshit” here is the lie you are spreading about RCC hospotals refusing to terminate tubal pregnancies.

No, Brad, it’s true.  I didn’t believe it either and then I looked it up—RCC hospitals are refusing to terminate ectopic pregnancies.  Can you believe that.  I’m still in shock.  This should be against the law—and it isn’t even that!

Monica Harrington

Oct. 20, 2013, 9:57 p.m.

The link above gives more information about how ectopic pregnancies are handled in Catholic hospitals.

Bruce, that’s what every politician does.  Do you think the immigration debate is actually supposed to go somewhere?  Do you think anybody’s unhappy that the TSA, the NSA, and assorted other initiatives have been altered to imply that even our friends and neighbors could be terrorists?  I’m pretty sure Machiavelli talks a bit about it, for example, so it’s not exactly a secret oral tradition.

Anyway, look, I think the ACA is stupid, too.  I’ve said so a million times, and believe so for simple reasons:  Insurance doesn’t make anybody healthier.  But using religion to decide, nah, I’m not gonna provide that kind treatment is unacceptable.  This has nothing to do with the religion or religion at all.

If you can’t do the job you signed on for, you should quit.  Don’t go into the military if you think killing is wrong.  Don’t go into banking if you think usury is wrong.  Don’t go into medicine if you think providing for established care guidelines is wrong.  I’ve quit jobs because I was opposed to the company’s direction.  You can’t tell me that religious people are less committed to their principles than I am.

James Leonard Park

Oct. 21, 2013, 12:34 p.m.

If the media now pay attention to patients who were kept alive TOO LONG because of Roman Catholic principles of medical ethics, this might galvanize the secular people of Washington state to create a hospice system that embraces all legal methods of choosing death in the state of Washington. Search the Internet for “right-to-die hospice”.

If a Catholic enters a Catholic hospital then the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services should be in full effect. If a non-Catholic enters a Catholic hospital the ERD’s should not be in effect. If the religious preferences of an individual cannot be determined then medical judgement should determine what care is best.

The Catholic Church has overstepped their bounds here

No Religious Organization should be allowed to RUN ANY PUBLIC INSTITUTION, Period !

It is time to rub on the fundamentalists chests of this Nation the difference between “The Right To Chose Your House Of Worship”
and the delusion fundies hold dear that they have the freedom to act like Dictators and force their Beliefs and Morals on those that DO NOT hold their Beliefs !

All forms of Christos-Fascism must be brought to an END in this Great Nation if we desire to keep it a Great Nation!

Bad pay, bad working conditions, cronyism, beaten-down nurses from the Pacific Rim.

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Sex and Gender

Sex and Gender

ProPublica's Nina Martin reporting on American systems and institutions that fail or mistreat people on the basis of their gender or sexuality.

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