Faith Healers

Catholics Are Taking Over Local Hospitals, Imposing Their Faith on Your Health Care, and Planning to Deny Certain Treatments for Patients Who Are Pregnant or Dying

Faith Healers

Robert Ullman

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These are the places that have Catholic hospital mergers completed or in the works, which means that residents may soon be receiving health care according to the moral dictates of the Catholic Church—whether they agree with it or not.

I'm sitting in a crowded coffee shop and I'm making a woman cry. At least, that's how it looks. Tears are slipping down the laugh lines in her cheeks, and one hand rests on her small belly. People around us are covertly staring.

But we're not discussing her pregnancy, not yet. We're talking about Savita Halappanavar, the Ireland resident who died from pregnancy complications four months ago, in a country that doesn't believe in abortion. "Except, of course, when a woman's life is in danger—they all add that caveat," the woman across from me says. "Like your pregnancy is a game of chicken they can play."

When Halappanavar was told that she was miscarrying, the 31-year-old dentist and her husband mourned the loss of what would have been their firstborn child. According to reports, they were eager to start a family. But, as there was nothing Halappanavar or doctors could do to save her 17-week-old fetus, she asked for an abortion to speed up the heart-wrenching process.

And she was denied.

According to Halappanavar's husband, they were told, "This is a Catholic country." Even though abortion wasn't against the Hindu couple's religious beliefs, they were told that her fetus still had a heartbeat, and as long as that tiny heart kept beating, doctors would do nothing to speed up her body's inevitable miscarriage.

Still, she asked, day after day, according to her husband, as her body grew weaker, her blood pressure dropped and her fever spiked, and she became disoriented and afraid. Doctors and nurses monitored her for infections but told her husband there was nothing more they could do, even as she vomited and her breathing became irregular. Finally, on October 24, three days after being admitted to the hospital, the fetal heartbeat stopped. Doctors snapped into action, and within hours, Halappanavar delivered a dead fetus. But it was too late for the aspiring mother: Despite the steady stream of antibiotics being administered to her, infection set in, then septic shock. As Halappanavar lost consciousness, her now-empty womb bloated with infection and her skin turned blue, according to her husband's reports. Doctors assured him that she was young and she'd bounce back, even as her body shut down, even as she could no longer breathe on her own and her body wouldn't respond to dialysis. One week after being admitted to the hospital, Halappanavar died.

If one good can be taken from Halappanavar's slow and likely avoidable death, it's that the world witnessed it and an important dialogue began: Whose ethical or religious conscience reigns supreme in hospitals—the patients whose health is at stake or the institutions caring for them?

The hospital where Halappanavar was a patient has announced that it is investigating the circumstances that led to her death. Meanwhile, officials within the Irish government announced their intentions to draft new regulations clarifying when doctors can perform abortions.

Here in Washington, 4,500 miles from Ireland and a world away from that country's Catholic-driven politics, it's easy to clutch your pearls and dismiss Halappanavar's death as a horror story. After all, Washington residents voted to legalize abortion in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade, and we've consistently upheld a woman's right to access abortion services since then.

But cases like Halappanavar's exist in Washington State. In fact, they've happened right here in Seattle. "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."

Miscarriages are common, and complications can be deadly. The American Pregnancy Association estimates that between 10 and 25 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage, and the chance that a woman will suffer a miscarriage during her pregnancy rises with age.

Fortunately for Mary, the fetal heartbeat stopped soon after she was admitted. But the emotional damage she sustained runs deep. "That experience left me mistrustful of doctors. I still feel helpless about it. My husband and I want to have a baby, but frankly I'm afraid of getting pregnant again."

Patient confidentiality prevents Swedish from commenting on Mary's case, but I contacted both Swedish and Providence to find out what specific guidelines or protocols the hospitals have in place for dealing with pregnant women in crisis. (Swedish has pledged to continue providing abortions when a mother's health is at risk, as has Providence.) Both hospitals stress that each case is unique but that the health of every mother is their priority.

"Our commitment at Providence is to provide the highest quality, compassionate care to women and babies," says spokesperson Colleen Wadden. When pressed for details on what turns a prohibited, elective abortion into an allowable, necessary abortion, her answer is vague. "It wouldn't be appropriate to speculate on a hypothetical patient scenario," she says. (A spokesperson for Swedish echoed this position.)

Unofficially, Swedish may have chalked up Mary's case to a training error.

At least that's the theory offered by Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest: "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."

Charbonneau says she's confident that this particular "training problem" has been fixed. In fact, she's staking her reputation on it. When Swedish entered into its new partnership with Providence and agreed to stop providing abortion services except in emergency instances, the administration took a proactive and somewhat admirable step: They pushed Planned Parenthood to open a clinic in an adjoining medical tower. That clinic, which is accessible by a breezeway, functions like any other Planned Parenthood clinic, offering everything from STD testing, abortion services, and sexual education to in-office female sterilization and vasectomies. "It was important to us that women continue to have the same access to services and not feel ostracized," Charbonneau says. "But we wouldn't enter into any deal with Swedish that would leave women coming into the ER in any kind of trouble. They have a commitment to me, in writing, that there will be no women getting hurt and no women dying."

Charbonneau says that Swedish has kept its word and has performed emergency abortions in its hospital.

This partnership with Planned Parenthood makes Swedish one of the most progressive Catholic hospital partnerships in the state. But there are a lot of other partnerships under way that would be far less progressive—partnerships involving organizations that aren't urging Planned Parenthood to open offices in the building next door. Catholic hospitals account for more than 12 percent of health-care institutions in the United States, according to the Catholic Health Association of the United States, which means that roughly one in eight Americans seeks treatment at one, whether they realize it or not. Here in the Northwest, our percentage of Catholic hospitals is much higher—44 percent and growing.

Catholic institutions across the nation are merging with secular hospitals, clinics, and even small private practices at an unprecedented rate. Optimists explain that the consolidation and shared infrastructure help reduce costs. Pessimists point out that the aggressive mergers come at a time when Catholic bishops are exerting and expanding their authority. "I see it as a conscious effort to achieve through the private market what they failed to achieve through the courts or at the ballot box," says Monica Harrington, a San Juan Island resident who's spent the last year fighting a Catholic hospital in her town.

Three of the largest health-care systems in the Northwest—PeaceHealth, Providence Health & Services, and Franciscan Health System—are Catholic entities, and they're busy making new deals in our state. According to MergerWatch, a nonprofit that tracks Catholic hospital mergers across the nation, there was a record-breaking 10 mergers announced in Washington State in 2012.

"In the 15 years we have been tracking religious/secular hospital mergers, we have never seen so many active cases in one state—until now," says Lois Uttley, the founder and director of MergerWatch. Compounding the problem: All 10 mergers would happen in Western Washington, which means that in the space of a few years, patients with needs that go against Catholic teaching could be forced to drive hundreds of miles to access the health services they need.

The mergers wouldn't just affect women's health care, they would affect end-of-life care for everyone and, potentially, compassionate medical care for members of the LGBT community.

"One merger is worrisome enough. There's no adequate oversight of the impact of all these individual cases," explains Sheila Reynertson, a six-year advocacy coordinator with MergerWatch. "Look at them all on a map—if they all come under Catholic rule, it wipes out a huge geographical area for all reproductive health care and the full range of end-of-life choices." The end result? The Catholic Church effectively controls medical care in Skagit, Whatcom, and San Juan Counties. "People living in Western Washington should be worrying."

When you enter a hospital seeking care, you carry with you a set of assumptions: You trust your doctors will explain all of your medical options to you after a thorough examination. You trust your doctors will recommend a treatment based on those options. You trust that they will help you make an informed decision about your treatment. You trust that they will treat you.

But what happens when religious restrictions interfere with that trust? To understand Catholic health care, it's important to know the rules that guide Catholic hospitals, otherwise known as Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs). These directives are drafted and tweaked by the rotating cast of mostly white, mostly celibate bishops couch-surfing at the Vatican. ERDs operate like a code of conduct that medical staff in Catholic hospitals agree to abide by, regardless of whether or not a particular staffer is Catholic. For the most part, the directives aren't suggestions—they're prescriptive.

"Any partnership... must respect church teaching and discipline," one directive states. The church monitors the implementation of these directives through hospital ethic committees overseen by regional bishops like our very own Archbishop Peter Sartain.

Sure, in 43 pages of Ethical and Religious Directives, there's some common-sense guidance to be found. But they're also flush with horrifying detail. As you'd expect, the directives pertaining to women's fertility read like a misogynist romance novel or found art from the Middle Ages: "Catholic health institutions may not promote or condone contraceptive practices." Emergency contraception can only be given to rape victims, and even then only "if, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already." Vasectomies and tubal ligations are also prohibited. Egg and sperm donors are deemed "contrary to the covenant of marriage," surrogate motherhood is prohibited because it denigrates "the dignity of the child and marriage," and doctors at Catholic hospitals can't help infertile couples conceive artificially—using their own eggs and sperm—because test-tube babies "separate procreation from the marital act in its unitive significance."

Then there's this: "Abortion... is never permitted."

Not even when the egg attaches outside the uterus and puts a mother's life in danger: "In case of extrauterine pregnancy, no intervention is morally licit which constitutes a direct abortion."

Vasectomies, sperm donation, abortions, surrogacy—these are all perfectly legal, mundane procedures that married couples and single people of all faiths utilize (as recent statistics show, even 98 percent of Catholic women admit to using birth control). And yet, according to the Catholic institutions conquering our medical ones, these are options patients should not have.

In 2008, 59 percent of Washington voters approved a statewide "Death with Dignity" initiative, making our state the second (of only three) in the country to embrace physician-assisted suicide for people with terminal illnesses. In San Juan County, the initiative's approval rate was much higher—an overwhelming 72 percent.

Acquiring the drugs to end your life is a predictably onerous process. Nonetheless, the law is serving its purpose. According to the most recent status report from the Washington State Department of Health, 103 people received life-ending medication in 2011, 98 of whom lived west of the Cascade Mountains. These terminal patients cited fears of losing their autonomy, their dignity, and their joy in life as their main reasons for wanting to die in peace at their own pace.

But residents of Friday Harbor can't even acquire the life-ending drugs they voted to legalize four years ago. The island's only hospital, PeaceHealth's Peace Island Medical Center, is Catholic affiliated.

PeaceHealth operates nine hospitals and 73 medical centers in the Northwest. Its newest hospital opened last November with all the medical gadgetry a small island population could desire: an expanded primary care and specialty clinic, a shiny new diagnostic services center, a cancer care suite for on-island chemotherapy, a 24-hour emergency room, even 10 hospital beds reserved for short-term care. Even though it is not owned by the church—just affiliated with it—PeaceHealth still chooses to "manifest" the Catholic ERDs in its own ethical policies, CEO Nancy Steiger tells me. They also keep "on-staff ethicists."

Not being a direct arm of the Catholic Church theoretically gives the hospital more flexibility. "We don't allow abortion or physician-assisted suicide on our property," Steiger says, but physicians can prescribe birth control if it's deemed "a medical necessity." And physicians can talk about physician-assisted suicide with patients (even if they can't administer it) because conversations are considered "private and protected."

But these concessions sound more generous than they are, considering that Peace Island is located on an island. Sure, a physician could theoretically refer a terminal patient to a doctor on the mainland for help acquiring life-ending drugs, but hopping a ferry for a road trip isn't practical for someone who already feels so awful they want to end their life. On San Juan Island, Death with Dignity is functionally useless.

By default, islanders are instead forced to die the Catholic way. And if living by the church's ethical directives is hard, dying by them is hell. For example, let's say that an accident leaves you comatose and brain-dead in the nearest Catholic hospital. You would be faithfully fed and watered so that you may "reasonably be expected to live indefinitely," regardless of your last wishes, according to the ERDs. If you're cognizant and dying, your options aren't much better: "Patients experiencing suffering that cannot be alleviated should be helped to appreciate the Christian understanding of redemptive suffering."

"We're essentially paying a Catholic institution to deny us care," explains island resident Monica Harrington, a soft-spoken blond with steely eyes. "It isn't right."

As the eighth child of devout Catholic parents, Harrington grew up loving the church she now finds herself battling. Despite her parents' religious beliefs, they were equally devout believers that abortions saved women's lives. Now, fighting San Juan Island's Catholic hospital monopoly has become Harrington's unofficial full-time job. Last year, she spearheaded a 300-person petition to kill the deal before contracts were signed. She helped pack public meetings with skeptical, angry locals. More importantly, when the county's hospital district commissioners finalized a 50-year lease agreement with PeaceHealth last year, she didn't stop talking about inequity. Island property owners are now paying $1 million in annual property taxes to support the hospital. Proponents of the agreement argue that there's no law dictating what entities hospital districts can and can't contract with. Undeterred, Harrington continues to push for the agreement to be renegotiated: She thinks PeaceHealth should only be contracted and paid for the specific services it offers. She thinks PeaceHealth should have to disclose what services it doesn't provide, preferably in bold, red, 16-point type on the door. She thinks PeaceHealth should be held accountable for masquerading as a comprehensive health-care institution, taking taxpayer money, and then refusing care based on religious standards its patients may not agree with. She's contacted her legislators, the state attorney general's office, and the ACLU.

And she's getting their attention.

In February, state senator Kevin Ranker (D-San Juan Islands) introduced a bill that would require new or expanding hospitals in the state to prove that they would provide for, or at the very least refer for, all women's health care, family planning, and end-of-life services. "In rural areas, there aren't many options," Ranker says. "We shouldn't allow the sole health-care provider to limit the legal medical choices you have available."

Especially when these Catholic hospitals are financed by taxpayers, private insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid, and federal and state tax breaks.

Which might not even be legal. After all, the Washington Constitution forbids any use of public dollars for the establishment of religion.

Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the ACLU of Washington, agrees. "We are deeply concerned that PeaceHealth's religiously based policy of restricting access to reproductive and end-of-life services violates the Washington Constitution and state law," Taylor wrote on January 3 in a three-page letter addressed to the San Juan County Public Hospital District #1. "The County must insist that, in order to receive public funds, PeaceHealth or other medical facilities provide access to contraceptive services and abortion and that their policies be based on medical ethics and state law, not religious doctrine."

A week later, the hospital commission "respectfully disagreed" with the conclusions drawn by Taylor, but from their wording, it seemed like they were sweating it: "However, we are considering what, if any, action is necessary on our part," their response said.

It is the second Monday in January, and four neat rows of church chairs stand arranged at the United Methodist Church in Sedro-Woolley. A sign on the door advertises adult Sunday school, but that's not what's attracted the small crowd of 20 people. This is a Skagit PFLAG meeting. At the front of the room are a gently wafting rainbow flag and other flags that read "peace" in six languages. A man passes me a "Be Yourself!" booklet.

Kathy Reim, proud president of Skagit PFLAG, welcomes everyone and introduces her daughter and daughter-in-law, drawing them each in for a hug. "It's all about popcorn and hugs here, that's what we're about," she says. Reim and her husband have missed only two monthly meetings in the 12 years she's been president.

This isn't a typical PFLAG support group. This is a brainstorming session on how to stop PeaceHealth from leasing and operating the local United General Hospital—yet another pending Western Washington hospital merger.

"I'll come right out and say it—I worry that gays and lesbians will also be affected," Reim says. "The church is very clear on their opposition to gays and lesbians, and I don't know if we can trust them with our health care." Heads nod in unison.

For the last year, PeaceHealth has been raising hackles in Western Washington. One reason is that it is considering merging with another Catholic hospital entity called Catholic Health Initiatives, which, unlike PeaceHealth, is infamous for its strict adherence to the ethical directives, and has taken a more hard-line position on reproductive issues in other states. And last March, PeaceHealth cold-called Planned Parenthood's regional Mt. Baker office and said it wanted to stop processing Planned Parenthood's blood tests, under advisement from Archbishop Sartain.

"They weren't controversial tests we're talking about," says Linda McCarthy, executive director of Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood. One test ruled out ectopic pregnancy, which can affect 1 in 100 women and can be life-threatening without immediate care. Another was a simple culture test, and the third was a semen analysis for post- vasectomies. The semen test is time- sensitive. "PeaceHealth is our closest lab, and we only have an hour limit to get the samples in," says McCarthy.

Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood has filled the gap that every Catholic hospital merger in the northwestern corner of the state has created. It now serves more than 15,000 people in Whatcom, Skagit, and San Juan Counties. One in 17 locals last year used its services. Given Planned Parenthood's vital role in the community, "We sent a letter back saying we rejected that request to stop doing our labs," says McCarthy. After three months, PeaceHealth backed down.

Asked about this confrontation, PeaceHealth CEO Nancy Steiger said, defensively, "I'd like you to check the facts—that was never stopped. We were asked by the bishop to stop providing some services to Planned Parenthood, and we met with them. We talked about options. They were not happy with those options. I don't remember the details. It was only a request... It was never a discontinuation of services. It was just a conversation."

"We don't have a written commitment from them to keep processing the labs, but we're staying vigilant," McCarthy says. "But we can't do it alone. It's time for the general public to wake up and pay attention to what these mergers mean."

You might be wondering: What do the doctors, nurses, hospice workers, and social workers who are innocently subsumed in these Catholic mergers think?

Broadly speaking, many of them are stressed and afraid. Like patients, doctors come from all religious backgrounds and don't appreciate having laypeople dictate how to do their jobs. No one I contacted would speak with me on the record about working for a Catholic hospital. A handful agreed to speak anonymously, but then half of them decided that even speaking anonymously was too dangerous. I heard excuses like "retaliation," "career killer," "patterns of revenge," "ostracization," and "it would ruin me."

Three physicians working in Whatcom County eventually agreed to speak with me. PeaceHealth bought out the secular hospital in 2008. Since then, PeaceHealth has systematically bought up nearly every specialty clinic in the area, from cardiologists to pediatricians, hospice to oncology. The physicians who agreed to meet me for coffee talked about the mindfuck of being raised Catholic, turning to atheism, and excelling in medicine—only to wake up one day with the church as your boss. The first physician joked grimly about the religious directives being "medieval torture porn." He talked about the struggle of trying to balance his duty to patients with the edicts of a Catholic hospital.

"Physicians who sign on [to the hospital] are explicitly enjoined from participating in or referring for physician-assisted suicide. You can't even talk about it," the second physician explains to me. "In Whatcom County, the only people who can take advantage of [Death with Dignity] are the people who have a computer, know how to use it, and know how to find Compassion & Choices. It's utterly preposterous."

"This is a problem with some Catholic hospitals more than others," says Robb Miller, Washington executive director of Compassion & Choices, a nonprofit advocating for end-of-life choices. He describes Seattle's Providence Hospital and Tacoma's Franciscan Hospital as having a "very poor" record on talking about or referring for physician-assisted suicide. In comparison, PeaceHealth is "not so bad—they're willing to refer to an intermediary." He says that despite these barriers, what makes the system sing are the nurses and social workers at these Catholic institutions who break the rules. "They quietly and covertly inform patients about Death with Dignity and Compassion & Choices, but they do so at the risk of losing their job," Miller explains.

Providence spokeswoman Colleen Wadden says, "We respect the rights of patients and physicians to have confidential conversations, but Providence cannot participate in any way in a patient's suicide," in response to Miller's "very poor" rating. A spokesperson for Franciscan didn't return calls for comment.

The worry about hospital retribution extends to Whatcom physicians who aren't even technically employed by PeaceHealth. Doctors who have private practices often have to admit patients to the hospital for advanced blood tests, X-rays, or surgeries. If they do, "they have to have medical staff privileges, and that means they have to agree with the hospital bylaws," the second Whatcom County physician explains. "You must read them and sign them. Once you've done that, you're bound by whatever they say."

I ask about the repercussions of not following the edicts. What happens if you're caught talking to patients about physician-assisted suicide in your private practice, or performing abortions, or, the trifecta of theoretical sins, assisting a fetal suicide on God's day of rest?

"Well, your staff privileges would certainly be revoked," the second physician tells me.

"You'd have to move out of the county," the third physician quietly says. "You couldn't get work. Every route ends at the church."

I ask about loopholes—like doctors prescribing birth control for an "acne problem" instead of for contraception.

"You put your license at risk by doing that," the third physician tells me. "You also put your patient at risk—what if she changes doctors, and they decide her skin is just fine and take her off the medication?"

"It's incredibly unethical," the second physician tells me. "You're falsifying diagnoses."

The third physician says, "And the point isn't that patients should be aware that there are loopholes. It's that patients should trust that physicians, in good conscience and faith, are working for their best interests."

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?

"That's a tough question," the first physician answers. "I think the answer is yes?" recommended

This article has been updated since its original publication.


Comments (93) RSS

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I had non religious Doctors that put me at death's door. You have to watch out for yourself. It does not matter what Religion that the hospital has. I had to ask for a heart cath before I could get a Doctor to believe that I was dying. I had 3 complete blocked arteries and they kept telling me it was all in my head and acid reflux.

Most Doctors are arrogant as if they are a god.


Don't blame Catholics or anyone else. No Doctor really cares what happens to you. Well, maybe one or two do.

Posted by Dake on January 9, 2014 at 1:45 AM · Report this
What is the status of Island and Skagit negotiations to establish a partnership with Peacehealth? Won't this have the same result as Swedish?
Posted by AnnaNewToBellingham on January 3, 2014 at 8:40 AM · Report this
I used to live in Whatcom County and was considering moving back for good, but this is making me think twice. What if I or my husband need medical care that the Catholic Church doesn't agree with? What if we want to have a living will taken seriously? Maybe moving to a place where all the hospitals are Catholic-run isn't such a great long-term life plan.

I sure don't want to be in a situation in which doctors feel they need to "balance" their conditions of employment with their duty to me as a patient. It's called a duty for a reason. You don't balance a duty; you perform it.
Posted by gadzooks on March 8, 2013 at 6:22 PM · Report this
I feel bad for the women who are on a verge of miscarriage at these catholic hospitals and could end up dead like Savita Halappanava. I wish this information would reach these women beforehand so they could avoid these hospitals if they have a miscarriage or delivery complications. And if people started avoiding these hospitals maybe these hospitals would change their policy
Posted by Reddy on March 7, 2013 at 7:39 PM · Report this
The sky is falling! The sky is falling!
Posted by ChickenLittle on March 7, 2013 at 1:27 PM · Report this
For folks on the Eastside, I believe both Evergreen and Overlake are secular safe hospitals. Really good quality of care, too.

I have one doctor I see at Swedish in Seattle, and if I could avoid that hospital entirely I would, but he's a specialist I need and I've already gone through two other doctors to find him. At least he's not an OB-GYN, right?

This is terrifying, and as a woman who wants to have children, I almost feel like I should avoid Seattle entirely if I get pregnant so I don't wind up in a bad situation. How fucked up is that?
Posted by blueraccoon on February 27, 2013 at 8:57 PM · Report this
@85: Thank you, Karen, for sharing helpful information on secular hospitals in Skagit County. I live in Bellingham, but am considering being transferred to Island Hospital in Anacortes if hospital policy push becomes shove; I grew up on Fidalgo Island.

@86: Yes, this IS scary!
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 26, 2013 at 10:39 PM · Report this
this seems like a great topic to have a forum or follow-up story on...dont let this subject go away! what can we do? this is scary!

Posted by Cassette tape fan on February 26, 2013 at 9:38 PM · Report this
For the record, there ARE alternatives to the Catholic hospital systems in Skagit County. Island Hospital in Anacortes and Skagit Valley Hospital in Mt Vernon offer high quality secular care to patients in the entire region. I live in San Juan County and our residents have traditionally used these hospitals. Emergency services in San Juan County will transfer patients to mainland hospitals of patient choice. However, the patient needs to know their options. Those with serious cardiovascular problems are usually sent to StJosephs's in Bellingham because they offer excellent cardiac specialty care. So, unless the patient specifies another preference,that will be the preferred destination.

I work at both Island and Skagit Valley hospitals and often see patients from neighboring counties who have chosen to receive their care in Skagit County because of the quality of care.

All of that said, I do have concerns about the folks who are unable to travel for care and this article gives excellent information for us who live and work in these counties. We need to be aware of these issues and be vigilant in protecting our communities from these very real threats to the quality of care we have come to take for granted here.

Sincerely, Karen Gilbert
Posted by Karen Gilbert on February 26, 2013 at 7:20 AM · Report this
I have news for Nancy Steiger: CEO and chief Mission Officer or not, she can shove her "mission of the Catholic Church" up her ass!
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 26, 2013 at 2:39 AM · Report this

And I have "inside" info that when Nancy Steiger wants to use the CEO title, she does. But you're right, it's actually scarier to consider that her "real" title is regional "CEO AND Chief Mission Officer" because the "mission" part of her job involves making sure that everyone who works for PeaceHealth is in alignment with the mission of the Catholic Church.
Posted by sanjuanislander on February 25, 2013 at 5:35 PM · Report this
This isn't just about women's rights. It also impacts the rights of the men who love them. Most couples make these choices together. Not being catholic, I don't want church doctrine anywhere near my family - or my freedom of conscience.
Posted by RuddyYouth on February 25, 2013 at 3:52 PM · Report this
@78: I second that!!
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 25, 2013 at 1:15 PM · Report this
@79 "I read this article with great interest because I have some insider knowledge about Peace Health."

Do tell.

Of course, one might also pause if one notes that PeaceHealth (peacehealth.org) does list Nancy Steiger's titles as "Chief Executive Officer & Chief Mission Officer". Now, one could certainly ascertain that she is not _the_ CEO, like Alan Yordy, President/CEO, but she is not improperly addressed as CEO.

It would be interesting to know where the clear implication that CEO Steiger was _the_ CEO of PeaceHealth came from (transcription error, oversimplification or misrepresentation, I believe covers the field), but it hardly invalidates the story the way you imply.
Posted by Make Pharmacists Fill Prescriptions While We're At It on February 25, 2013 at 11:41 AM · Report this
I read this article with great interest because I have some insider knowledge about Peace Health. Madrid incorrectly, twice, identifies Nancy Steiger as Peace Health CEO. A brief look at the Peace Health website would have given her the identity of the actual CEO. It gives one pause: how many other 'facts' did Madrid and her editors fail to check in this article?

Posted by Rosemary Allen on February 25, 2013 at 11:18 AM · Report this
ALWAYS Clear Your Cache!!! 78
The Roman Catholic Church should have been utterly annihilated in Europe centuries ago.
Posted by ALWAYS Clear Your Cache!!! on February 25, 2013 at 10:35 AM · Report this
#76 They have The Stranger in Heaven?
Posted by AlaskanbutnotSeanParnell on February 25, 2013 at 4:13 AM · Report this
terribly written article
Posted by Philosopher from Heaven on February 24, 2013 at 11:00 PM · Report this
My experience: my father had massive stroke/heart attack. Called 911. The ambulance drivers are obliged by law to take to nearest hospital, in this case a Catholic one. All doctors agreed he was brain dead but was on a respirator. My dad had made a living will, to be taken off the respirator in this kind of occurrence. The hospital refused to do that saying he would die if they did. Which was against their policy. My family then tried to get him transferred to another hospital so his wishes could be carried out. Denied by the hospital. Reason? He was too unstable to move. One week later a court order was finally granted to remove him from current hospital to a non Catholic one so his living will could be put into effect. His body had thrashed for a week. After moving him to the second hospital he was removed from respirator and his body started breathing on his own but the thrashing stopped. 3 days later he died peacefully. This happened in the state of Indianna, city of Indianapolis. Knowledge is a powerful thing. Be aware your living will will not always be carried out in a Catholic hospital.
Posted by Sk8ter on February 24, 2013 at 10:29 AM · Report this
"Patients experiencing suffering that cannot be alleviated should be helped to appreciate the Christian understanding of redemptive suffering."

Jesus Christ. Belief in a cruel god makes a cruel man.
Posted by Marcion on February 24, 2013 at 9:57 AM · Report this
Question.... Presumably, hospitals meet the legal definition of "public accomodation." How is it that a religious hospital is allowed to directly violate the law and place religious doctrine ahead of the patient's needs?

We would not allow this of a shopkeeper.
Posted by TechBear on February 24, 2013 at 9:04 AM · Report this
No matter how well-intenioned a doctor is, if they ultimately choose their job security over a patient's care, no matter what external pressures resulted in that decision, then they might as well have adhered to the Hypocrite's Oath.

For the Hippocratic Oath is beyond external pressures, it is beyond ERD's, it is beyond influence, it is simply and elegantly pure, and as such should be held in the highest regards and protected with the utmost ferocity, because amongst its other guarantees, it states:

"I will not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient..."
Posted by Jonnie Gossamer on February 24, 2013 at 3:45 AM · Report this
@33: I'm with @68: go back to your cave of ignorance and fossilize there, Rush. Assholes like you need to become extinct.

@9: Why are you ignoring my questions?? Why is this ideologic bullshit even happening in our largely progressive voter polled BLUE state??
Should I go to Mount Baker Planned Parenthood then for my death with dignity right to die when and / or the quality of my life has become unbearable? Are there truly NO secular hospitals or clinics in Bellingham??
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 24, 2013 at 2:43 AM · Report this
Thank you for this article. I printed it out, shared in on FB and sent it via e-mail to several family members and friends. I have been worried about this for some time and spoke of it to Denny Heck last summer at a fundraiser. It now needs to be challenged by our state legislature. I hope the liberal progressive women I know in the legislature will come up with a bill to do just that.
Posted by PNW_WarriorWoman on February 23, 2013 at 10:23 PM · Report this
Thank you for this article. I printed it out, shared in on FB and sent it via e-mail to several family members and friends. I have been worried about this for some time and spoke of it to Denny Heck last summer at a fundraiser. It now needs to be challenged by our state legislature. I hope the liberal progressive women I know will come up with a bill to do just that.
Posted by PNW_WarriorWoman on February 23, 2013 at 10:23 PM · Report this

Oh, and SEATTLEBCC @33, for your below comment, may I say on behalf of all of the women here:


"No, What seems to grind their gears is the fact that its the one institution that women have yet to push their estrogen-laden, matriarchal opinion in at a leadership level and women don't like that."

Let me say it again in case you missed it:


May you and your old, tired, misogynistic Catholic ass never get laid again.

Posted by Velvetbabe on February 23, 2013 at 7:37 PM · Report this

Awesome article, Cienna. Frightening and disturbing stuff. This is American, isn't it? You'd never freaking know.

Posted by Velvetbabe on February 23, 2013 at 7:29 PM · Report this
Shame on the Swedish board of directors for handing Seattle's best hospital over to the Vatican! Shame on the Swedish physicians who put this pregnant patient through this cruel ordeal! There is no place in medicine for right wing religious ideals that harm women and prevent them from receiving compassionate and modern medical care that they should have they right to choose rather than being prevented from receiving the current standard of care because of a hospital's and physician's hateful "religious" ideals that put this patient in danger and made her and her family suffer unnecessarily! Swedish is a shell of the former institution it was prior to being acquired by Providence. Thanks for this article informing rational thinking patients that their interests are not considered when they seek care that the Vatican and its proxy Swedish deem non-Catholic in nature.
Posted by Concerned Patient on February 23, 2013 at 6:29 PM · Report this
If the Holy Roman Catholic Church wants people who are brain dead to be fed and kept alive indefinitely, than the Holy Roman Catholic Church can PAY to keep them alive and assume all responsibility for their care. I am going to have my lawyer amend my advance directive to forbid anyone from ever taking me to a Catholic-run or Catholic-affiliated medical care facility (including Swedish). BARBARIANS!!!!!!!!!
Posted by Electroscribe on February 23, 2013 at 2:27 PM · Report this
Any medical institution that accepts public funds for any service it offers should be required to provide coverage for all medical services the overseeing public agency determines to be in the public interest.

If however a medical institution chooses not to accept public funds in any manner it should be free to follow whatever its core beliefs dictate and deal with individuals who choose to use its services without government interference.
Posted by Name on February 23, 2013 at 5:54 AM · Report this
I work for them. I have to find another job. These are our and your and their civil rights. It is 11:15 and now I won't be able to sleep but that is a small price to pay for when patients can't sleep because they are suffering for being human beings.
Posted by Prof mom, employee, advocate on February 22, 2013 at 11:21 PM · Report this
@60 sanjuanislander: Thank you for your helpful information and link to ACLU! I emailed them using the website address you provided, to ask about what do in an end-of-life situation if admitted to St. Joseph's.
A representative from Whatcom Alliance Healthcare Access (WAHA) assured me on the phone that St. Joe's would transfer me to a secular hospital if I requested a procedure that was against their policy, but DAMNIT, I want to be sure! It's MY life, I'm happily NOT Catholic, and I feel very sorry for women who are unhappily at the mercy of these pigheaded ideologist idiots.

By the way, how is the new medical clinic on Orcas Island?
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 22, 2013 at 10:30 PM · Report this
I heard a similar story about someone who was denied their wishes. This case didn't involve pregnancy or childbirth, but death itself. This person was in her last days of life and had a properly documented do-not-resuscitate order. In spite of that, the hospital insisted on resuscitation because "it was against the hospital's policy to do otherwise".
With any religiously affiliated hospital, it's "patient beware".
Posted by dagmeneer on February 22, 2013 at 9:12 PM · Report this
I want to encourage EVERYONE with insight into these issues to contact the ACLU. They have the legal smarts to stop this. They've got an intake form up: https://www.aclu.org/secure/patient-and-…
Posted by sanjuanislander on February 22, 2013 at 6:00 PM · Report this
UW, Virginia Mason, Northwest Hospital are all secular hospitals available to Seattle residents (although all three are actually part of the same UW Network, so while they are good choices, the only non-Catholic alternative is still just one health system in seattle).

Yes, many (if not most) Catholic hospitals in the Puget Sound area receive public funding as a portion of their operating budgets. That is funding over and beyond the payments that they receive from Medicare / Medicaid. For example, "Swedish North" (formerly Stevens) remains a levy supported hospital and is largely funded by public money. The irony here is that many of the secular (UW) hospitals are *not* publically funded. Northwest Hospital, for example, despite being completely secular, receives no public funding at all beyond payments for treating patients on public health plans.
Posted by highside on February 22, 2013 at 4:58 PM · Report this
@53: I agree! I wonder how the religious gun nuts would feel about having the rifle barrels pointed at THEM?

@54: Thank you for the reminder! I have Group Health coverage, too, thank Goddess. It's comforting to still have options, and mortifying to hear about all those who don't! Let's stop this white collar criminal insanity!
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 22, 2013 at 12:17 PM · Report this
Very disturbing and great work for talking about this complex issue. I sent this to the governor and Insurance commissioner. I will be emailing this to all members of the Healthcare committees in the house and senate.
Posted by RoseE on February 22, 2013 at 12:03 PM · Report this
Over the years, I've known people who've worked for Providence in Seattle -- providers, social workers, and administrators. Most were laypeople, a couple were nuns. All are liberal. Most are lesbian or gay. Many have openly opposed and rejected stupid Vatican policy. All are compassionate. My understanding has been that they, far more than the Church, typify the spirit and practice at Providence (at least in Seattle). It's a shame none of them spoke to Cienna, because their presence indicates that this situation is more complex and nuanced, and it would be great to know how, if at all, they are working (as so many Catholics do) in opposition to Vatican dictates.
Posted by Pedro McNutz on February 22, 2013 at 10:35 AM · Report this
Cienna - Thank you for this article. Excellent work, and so very eye opening. I go to Swedish for my healthcare and had NO CLUE about the religious affiliation.
Posted by CQ1 on February 21, 2013 at 8:31 PM · Report this
Wow. Am I ever glad to be a Group Health member.
Posted by Cleogrrl on February 21, 2013 at 7:33 PM · Report this
I'd like to echo Aunt Grizelda's comments above:
"Oh, God--this is horrible!!! Can Catholicism die? SOON?? Just when I didn't think I could despise the Catholic Church any more than I do now..!" That's the first thing we should send our women into combat against - the MF-ing Church and its cardinals, bishops and archbishops. Get rid of all those assholes.
Posted by leftist on February 21, 2013 at 6:48 PM · Report this
@49 - ex-Swedish employee - I really feel for you, and also encourage you to get in touch with the ACLU. They have an intake form on their web site.

As things progress, it's going to be very helpful for them to be in touch with people who can describe what's going on based on first-hand knowledge.
Posted by sanjuanislander on February 21, 2013 at 6:24 PM · Report this
Thank you wxPDX for donating to Planned Parenthood. That act goes a long way in my opinion. More so than these hostile commentators who make themselves feel superior by having a judgmental opinion but do not act for justice. I appreciate your action.
Posted by woman on February 21, 2013 at 6:22 PM · Report this
sikandro 50
@49. What BS am I trying to educate you with? I made a historical claim, one that is fairly straight forward and uncontroversial. You responded, but not at all in reference to that historical claim. I made and make no claims about Providence, but of course agree that, as a hospital, they should be thinking of the poor and unfortunate in physical and material terms.

Cheers. I need to go figure out where my holy hole is.
Posted by sikandro on February 21, 2013 at 4:48 PM · Report this
As an FYI, during my orientation to Providence they were very clear that "The goal of Providence is not healthcare or education, those are simply vessels we use to teach god's love". So shove your BS up your holy hole when you attempt to educate us with your ignorance.

I had no desire to work for Providence at all, but when I was provided with a letter from Swedish's HR department that stated if I did not sign the offer letter given to me by Providence (when I never applied to work there) that I would be resigning from Swedish...that's got to be illegal! They made me sign the offer letter and agree to the new terms months BEFORE they ever sent me to orientation which is where I found out that "Providence" means "God" and when they refer to the "poor and unfortunate" they are not referring to wealth or economics, they are referring to people who are not spiritual. That's right, in their mind the "poor and unfortunate" are those who don't follow their beliefs. There should be a follow up article on how Swedish forced all of secular central services workforce to become Providence employees.

You are an uninformed shill. They also informed us in our Providence orientation, that Swedish is now "just a brand" of Providence. In other words all of the Swedish campus' and clinics are Providence. "We are one company, with two brands."

As we were all in the same boat during that orientation, I think I saw about 40 jaws drop to the floor at the same time.

Did you know that Providence has a prayer before EVERY FUCKING MEETING. That's right, like we've got all the time in the world, why don't you waste the first 10 minutes of every meeting making people fucking pray! You've already slashed the workforce so we don't have enough staffing, so we have little time as it is, and now you make us fucking pray before each meeting, even if we're not religious?!

They say there needs to be mutual respect, but the only respect they desire is for their religion. They actually have an exemption to the Equal Opportunity Employment Act that allows them NOT TO HIRE SOMEONE BASED ON THEIR RELIGION. You know why? BECAUSE THEY EXIST TO SPREAD THEIR RELIGION. They asked us at the end of our orientation why Providence exists, and guess what the answer was? "To spread god's love to the poor and unfortunate"...don't forget what they mean by "poor and unfortunate" when you read that.

Feel free to call it Swedish if it helps you sleep at night "Swedish Employee", but sticking your head in the sand isn't going to change the reality, you work for Providence too. So does all the clinical staff at Swedish. You know why? Because Swedish's clinical services are now controlled by the Catholic church.
Posted by ex-Swedish Employee - not by choice on February 21, 2013 at 4:32 PM · Report this
Way too many religionists getting away with forcing their religion down other peoples' throats in this country. How is this different from the Taliban except in extent?

Freedom of and for religious practice includes the freedom FROM other people's religions. When running a hospital, a Catholic (or seventh day adventist or any other religious group) is operating a licensed medical facility that potentially serves the public. Doesn't matter if it receives public money or not, hospitals and clinics of this type are not like selective private celebrity rehabs, they are open facilities to anyone with insurance. They serve a public who, in a multi-cultural society, come from a variety of faith based traditions including ones that don't adhere to Catholic doctrine. Plus atheists. No such facility should EVER be allowed to have licensed health care providers' and patients' decisions be curtailed by the faith of a sponsoring religion.

Likewise, conscience objections that permit pharmacists and physicians to withhold contraception or abortion or RU-486 etc. should NOT be allowed. Too bad the article didn't talk about these -- they also affect poor women and rural women especially hard.

If you want your religion to dictate your life, enter the clergy or something similar. If you decide to become a licensed healthcare professional, OB/GYN, pharmacist, etc., you have to deal with a variety of people and respect their beliefs. Or you should lose your license.

Just as a doctor could not ethically force a Jehovah's Witness to receive a blood transfusion, a doctor who IS a Jehovah's Witness HAS to perform a blood transfusion on a patient who needs one and wants one.

I'd go so far as to say a Catholic OB/GYN should have to perform an abortion, it comes with being an OB/GYN, and absolutely a Catholic hospital should have to hire doctors willing to do this and offer the procedure 24/7 in accordance with the secular laws of the country and state -- on demand under 24 weeks or whatever it is. Plus they should have to pay for their employees' birth control. Not all their employees are Catholic. Obama's religious exemption was a cop-out. The Catholic Church has a right to deny birth control to Catholic nuns, but not to their janitors, doctors, and nurses and other non-religious employees.
Posted by delta35 on February 21, 2013 at 4:13 PM · Report this
Article I, Section 11 of the Washington State Constitution: No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction, or the support of any religious establishment: PROVIDED, HOWEVER, That this article shall not be so construed as to forbid the employment by the state of a chaplain for such of the state custodial, correctional, and mental institutions, or by a county's or public hospital district's hospital, health care facility, or hospice, as in the discretion of the legislature may seem justified.

So how is it legal when church affiliated, tax funded hospitals force all citizens to adhere to Catholic ideology and deny legal medical care?
Posted by vel on February 21, 2013 at 3:27 PM · Report this
sikandro 46
@45. Nope. I'm implying that it's short-sighted to act as if religious belief is out of place in a medical setting, when many medical settings came into existence in the first place because of religious belief. Sure, point it out when it's pathological and leads to them doing harm to those who are suffering (as in the cases Cienna describes), but don't act as if religious belief doesn't also work in the opposite way: medical care for those who would otherwise not receive it. This is perhaps more difficult to see because of our position in history and, for many of us, our exposure to medicine and religion in the USA.

One interesting aspect of all of this is that, according to Pew research, more than 50% of Catholics believe that abortion should be legal in all cases.
Posted by sikandro on February 21, 2013 at 3:01 PM · Report this
@40 "Historically, many many hospitals have come into existence on the basis of religious principles having to do with mandates to take care of the sick and suffering. We should bear that in mind when examining of the situation at hand."

I'm sorry, are you saying that we should examine the possibility of having your health care curtailed as a doctrinal issue?


Because no pope has proclaimed the Church's teaching on abortion in a specific ex cathedra statement declaring it as an essential matter of faith and infallibly true, whereas the Catholic Church has always held to the primacy of conscience and taught that individuals must follow their consciences even when they are wrong.

In short, Vatican II would imply that this shit ain't kosher.
Posted by Taking You To Church! on February 21, 2013 at 2:00 PM · Report this
Secular nonprofit healthcare organizations, like Planned Parenthood, are more important than ever. After I read this article, I donated $100 to PP. Maybe some others here could do the same. The ACLU is another worthy beneficiary of your largesse.
Posted by wxPDX on February 21, 2013 at 1:21 PM · Report this
So scary. Where is the money coming to create the mergers? I thought the Catholic Church was broke from the payouts to victims of pedophilia priests. My blood pressure rose many points while reading this article. Great work!
Posted by Maggie Cart on February 21, 2013 at 1:06 PM · Report this
I am a Swedish employee. I am not in administration or management. A couple of things:

1. There is no "Providence Hospital" in Seattle. Our Cherry Hill campus has not been Providence for many years. (Just saying. I like accuracy.)

2. It is true that Swedish doesn't "participate" in DWD in the sense that providers don't prescribe the life-ending "cocktail" of drugs. Why would a hospital setting be the appropriate place for this? There are no restrictions placed upon our ability to share information about DWD, and we do so freely. (Also, Swedish's decision about this predates the partnership with Providence.)

3. I don't know anything about the termination case spoken about here, but I could see how this might have been a training issue, as they said. It was also complicated by the fact that the fetus was at the age of viability. Again, I don't know the story, but I am guessing there is more to it then how it appears at first. Swedish would not refuse a medically necessary abortion. As for elective abortions, there is little reason why they would be done in a HOSPITAL setting. Again, that is more appropriate for an outpatient setting-such as Planned Parenthood.
Posted by Swedish Employee on February 21, 2013 at 12:39 PM · Report this
sikandro 41
Please also preserve sympathy when "examing of" the grammar in my previous post :(
Posted by sikandro on February 21, 2013 at 12:18 PM · Report this
sikandro 40
I can't tell if the commenters saying, for instance, "Running a hospital on religious rules is as bad as a hospital that only helps one particular ethnic group" are trolling are not.

Historically, many many hospitals have come into existence on the basis of religious principles having to do with mandates to take care of the sick and suffering. We should bear that in mind when examining of the situation at hand.
Posted by sikandro on February 21, 2013 at 12:16 PM · Report this
Are the hospitals in question publicly funded in any way? If so, people who aren't catholic (the majority I presume) should be all over their legislators. If not, unless there is another hospital in the area, people who need services are in a difficult position. I live on Vancouver Island, and the hospital in my area, although publicly funded, is administered by the catholic church, and won't provide services that are legal in Canada. Appallingly provincial governments have done nothing about this. I'm travelling 30 miles to have my knee scoped so as not to use this facility. I'm able to do this; unfortuneately others are not.
Posted by diz on February 21, 2013 at 12:00 PM · Report this
@36 sanjuanislander: What is your opinion of my comment in @24?
Am I truly fucked? I checked with a representative at WAHA who assured me that they would respect my right to die at home through Hospice and visiting nurses, and St. Joe's would agree to transfer me to another hospital (i.e.: Virginia Mason, UW) that would be supportive of my stated end of life choices.

I am perfectly healthy, not dying, childless by choice, not pregnant and however nutty, luckily am still of sound mind and can make carefully thought out decisions on my own.
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 21, 2013 at 10:27 AM · Report this
This is terrible president to set for hospitals. Should we deny the use of science from the religious hospitals? How far do you want to take this concept?

Either way as a medical doctor denying services based on religious belief should be as illegal as shoeing up intoxicated to work. Perhaps even screen for religion and deny employment as they do with mandatory drug tests. BTW that It is actually legal for the religious to deny employment to the NONES thanks to the plethora of preferential treatment the religious receive through our law makers.

Any hospital holding religious rules over our governments rules should not receive government support in any way. Subject to tax and related regulation and run out of business at least loose their tax exempt status. Running a hospital on religious rules is as bad as a hospital that only helps one particular ethnic group. You decide which one.

Do you really want a hospitals that only cater to one religion, one race or hold themselves above the law because of their religion. Oh they are not one of us why should we waste out resources on that one. Can you imagine. When will we we need a cross tattoo or a religious marking to receive any treatment at a hospital. Do you have the right password my little lamb.

Preferential treatment for the religious must become illegal. It must be removed from our laws. This is proven over and over again and not just in regard to hospitals.
Posted by This is religious discrimination ! on February 21, 2013 at 10:12 AM · Report this
Seattlebcc, I'm pretty sure that the reason you're criticized is because you express moronic opinions. Did you not read the article? Did you not understand that women in many areas of the state do not have a choice? Do you really believe that the woman in Ireland died because of a "communication" problem or "lack of knowledge"?

Somehow you seem to have gotten to whatever ripe old age you are without having learned reading comprehension.
Posted by sanjuanislander on February 21, 2013 at 8:50 AM · Report this
@33: Your suggestion that people who don't like the level of care they are receiving just "go to another hospital" is ignorant and short-sighted. Would you care to try again?
Posted by treehugger on February 21, 2013 at 8:47 AM · Report this
@29 "educate yourself" Same to you. Guess what Catholics become when they join the organization? That's right; they're part of the problem. Way to be part of the problem yourself, Aargh. And stop telling us to look in the other direction when we've recognized that the problem is right here.
Posted by treehugger on February 21, 2013 at 8:46 AM · Report this
Seattlebcc 33
You know, these scare tactics have been going on for years. Maybe Cienna, every woman who has a chip on her knocked-up shoulder or anyone who s dying and wants that bottle of pills should just go to another hospital. Catholics don't have the market cornered on healthcare. Frankly women are irritated with the church, not because of the care they receive, because if they really were getting bad care here in the states, they would be suing or , they'd find another hospital. No, What seems to grind their gears is the fact that its the one institution that women have yet to push their estrogen-laden, matriarchal opinion in at a leadership level and women don't like that. As a male who is a catholic, I have been criticized, more often than not because I'm a catholic and the "assumed" positions of the church and funny enough, not by catholic women. I understand what happened in Ireland was horrible and for all we know it was based on lack of knowledge or communication- which happens here in the US all the time. Maybe its time to get over it and find something else to complain about, especially when we live in a country that has something that a lot of countries don't have - options!
Posted by Seattlebcc on February 21, 2013 at 7:01 AM · Report this
I'm so glad to live in a country with freedom of choice! Fuck religion!
Posted by sea'mo on February 21, 2013 at 12:08 AM · Report this
Posted by SunnyMeadow on February 20, 2013 at 10:39 PM · Report this

What is YOUR point? Cienna Madrid's point was that Catholic hospitals are being taken over by Catholic organizations that the Catholic bishops oversee and they want everyone to follow a very rigid, conservative set of rules that forbid, among other things, abortions in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. Is that too difficult a concept for you to follow?
Posted by sanjuanislander on February 20, 2013 at 10:22 PM · Report this
Really? Our hospitals are being overrun by Catholics? Oh my. Or maybe you meant to say a Catholic organization. I disagree with Providence's anti-choice railroading of WA state patients as much as the next person, but fuck off with your alarmist anti-Catholic language. This is one giant Catholic organization. It's not a mob of Catholic individuals. Educate yourself.
Posted by Arghh on February 20, 2013 at 10:06 PM · Report this
lauramae 28
Ectopic pregnancy untreated is a very dangerous condition that can most certainly end in the death of the woman.

I've had this argument with my sister (who is still a practicing Catholic) and there is zero logic in the argument. There is no chance that the fetus will survive and there is every chance that the mother will die. What is the logical reason for denying ending the pregnancy? The only answer she came up with was "the woman had her chance at life and the baby hasn't."

I'm sure that the official line from the Catholic Church has some flowery explanation for the inexplicable, but I suspect that my sister has it in a nutshell no matter how nutty it is.

Pro-life apparently does not extend to the patient, particularly a woman---the descendent of the sin inducing Eve.

I doubt US law will change anytime soon. All part of the war on women.

I'm absolutely certain that the Catholic Church takeover of hospitals is exactly designed to make avenues for "sin" unavailable. The strategy was perfected by the missionaries ruthless love affair with the dark ages when questioning the Church was a crime.
Posted by lauramae on February 20, 2013 at 9:47 PM · Report this
Great article. This is an important topic that isn't discussed nearly enough. I live in a rural area, and the only decent hospital within hours of my home is Catholic. During my second pregnancy, I went to see my ob/gyn about some odd pains in my belly, and was told after testing that there was a small hemorrhage in my uterus and the placenta was dying. Of course, this meant that my baby, too, was dying. I was devastated, as was my husband. After asking all the usual questions and finding out that there wasn't anything to be done, I asked, "Is my baby suffering?" My doctor hesitated, and then tried to explain to me as gently as she could that at my son's stage of development, he was likely feeling his slow death. I was frantic at the idea of my boy suffering like that; I couldn't bear it. But I was told that the decision to have mercy on him was not my own, and that I couldn't do anything to speed up his ordeal unless the hemorrhage worsened and my own life was put in danger. I'm a Christian myself (though not a Catholic), and do not for one second believe that my God would have wanted my baby to suffer unnecessarily. But my own morality was a non-factor. I was unable to make a choice as a woman, an adult, or a mother. My husband and I could probably have made peace, eventually, with the loss of the baby we wanted and already loved, but neither of us will ever get over how it happened.
Posted by Haley on February 20, 2013 at 9:31 PM · Report this
"What are the odds that a catholic institution will be willing to treat them as their target gender"

Why would a hospital treat someone as other than their biological gender if a treatment is gender-specific?
Posted by Reader01 on February 20, 2013 at 9:24 PM · Report this
This is so terrifying Im sure I will have bad dreams tonight.
Posted by tito on February 20, 2013 at 9:24 PM · Report this
So, while not pregnant, unmarried and childless by choice at age 48,
am I totally Catholically raped and fucked against my will for signing up for WAHA, Whatcom Alliance Healthcare Access, in preparing for advanced healthcare needs and my own decision-making later in life?
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 20, 2013 at 8:28 PM · Report this
To Orv, I believe the chances can best be expressed as Zero.
Posted by sanjuanislander on February 20, 2013 at 5:54 PM · Report this
Virginia Mason and UW are safe.
Posted by sanjuanislander on February 20, 2013 at 5:53 PM · Report this
I am a gay, HIV+ atheist, and both my GP and my HIV specialist are with the Polyclinic and licensed only for Swedish. After reading this article, I will be changing my doctors because I do not ever want to end up Swedish, with my medical care and human dignity limited by what the Roman Catholic Church feels is moral.

Any recommendations as to which hospitals are still safe?
Posted by TechBear on February 20, 2013 at 5:41 PM · Report this
I'm very concerned about what this might mean for transgender people who find themselves in one of these hospitals. What are the odds that a catholic institution will be willing to treat them as their target gender, or provide necessary hormones while they're hospitalized?
Posted by Orv on February 20, 2013 at 5:35 PM · Report this
Oh, God--this is horrible!!! Can Catholicism die? SOON??
Just when I didn't think I could despise the Catholic Church
any more than I do now....!@#$%&@%#&*^(@#^*&(@)#^#!!!!
Can we wipe out the Republican Party, too, while we're at it,
now that US women are "allowed" to go into combat, and guns
are supposed to keep our schools "safer"

I hope Halappanavar's husband sues the shit out of those idiotic
ideologist ratfuckers and rakes in a billion dollar settlement.
My heartfelt condolences.
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 20, 2013 at 4:14 PM · Report this
The drawing at the top of the link reminds me of the crucified woman in the "Sons" sequence of JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN PARIS(the film version).

Posted by AlaskanbutnotSeanParnell on February 20, 2013 at 4:05 PM · Report this
When I was rushed to the closest hospital because of premature labor (my twins ultimately died) the hospital refused to put the father's name on their birth certificates because we were not married. He was there for the birth and spent the night in my room with me. Turned out I was at Catholic Medical Center.. That was 25 years ago but times have not changed. It's scary to realize what the Catholics have been doing with their money.. We must lobby our legislatures to demand that all hospitals provide all health care services. Don't forget, they are also challenging the birth control coverage under "Obamacare"... too much control for the church.
Posted by NancyG on February 20, 2013 at 3:50 PM · Report this
sikandro 16
@11. Sure. I just don't have a sense here of how much the said gag order is actually changing anything. As in, it's misleading to talk about the inconvenience to the patients of traveling to the mainland for consultations and procedures if that would be the process regardless.
Posted by sikandro on February 20, 2013 at 3:21 PM · Report this
Knat 15
For once, I am glad I have no personal anecdotes to add to the discussion. I could provide plenty of how poorly the facilities in Whatcom specifically have been doing in recent years (constant stress due to inadequate staffing and supplies, rapid turnover in leadership, etc), but that's not the point here.
Posted by Knat on February 20, 2013 at 3:03 PM · Report this
How can we help in the fight against these government-subsidised religious hospitals that deny care to patients?
Posted by Adara on February 20, 2013 at 2:40 PM · Report this
People need to realize that the Catholic church is taking over a lot of former "for profit" hospitals across the country. Just as religion in government is bad, religion in medicine is even worse! If we follow the constitution, ie: freedom from religious persecution, then the Catholic church can have NO SAY over what procedures, whether it be an abortion or a DNR, may be performed in a hospital! To force non-Catholics to live by Catholic rules is a form of "persecution" and against our Constitution when it comes to medical help! This needs to stop and if a law must be written to stop it then let's get our Legislature to write the law!
Posted by gerlopayet on February 20, 2013 at 2:35 PM · Report this
They're mostly WHITE!?! Oh noes!
Posted by Reader01 on February 20, 2013 at 2:34 PM · Report this
Cienna Madrid 11
@6, The issue isn't whether the hospital carries the drugs, it's that the process is undermined from the very beginning by a Catholic gag order.

Before acquiring a prescription, a terminally ill person must make separate oral and written requests for the medication to his/her physician, and then potentially meet with a consulting physician and/or submit to a psychological examination.

No part of this intricate, time consuming process is possible if your acting physician isn't allowed to discuss it with you in the first place.
Posted by Cienna Madrid on February 20, 2013 at 2:21 PM · Report this
@tacohut - I don't think that Swedish has done this specifically, but there are cases of DNR's and/or Living Wills not being respected at other Catholic hospitals.

Catholics (catholic business owners) say they don't want their money to pay for birth control or health insurance that pays for abortion well I don't want my tax dollars funding Catholic or other religiously affiliated hospitals, period. There has to be some level of oversight for these institutions, otherwise they can continue to go on denying scientific fact and providing a piss poor level of care to women in general.
Posted by angryeveryday on February 20, 2013 at 2:20 PM · Report this
The lesson is "don't be a pregnant woman on SJI" because if you need an emergency abortion, the bishops will object. But it's not just SJI. After this summer (when CHI takes over the hospital in Bremerton), you don't want to be a pregnant woman on the Olympic Peninsula either....and I'd stay out of Bellingham too.
Posted by sanjuanislander on February 20, 2013 at 1:47 PM · Report this
This is terrifying. What is a woman to do? How do I make sure an ambulance takes me to a secular hospital? What can a woman on San Juan do in a medical emergency?
Posted by wxPDX on February 20, 2013 at 1:31 PM · Report this
@ (unregistered commenter) Thomas122, yes Swedish wasn't planning on providing DWD services before Providence took them over*. That is different from Catholic hospitals not even allowing their staff to educate patients as to options.

* Swedish sold its staff on the "affiliation" as a "new kind of partnership, not a take-over". This "new kind of partnership" included a new board that was mostly made up of Providence executives and immediate changes to how Swedish operated. After about a year of working under the new system I think even the most optimistic staff are realizing that Swedish got took over and talk of "getting in line with industry standards" actually means "do more with less, so you can suffer and be closer to god".

It's especially galling to have Catholics cutting staffing and supplies to the bone so that they can make a greater profit (Catholic Health Services MAKES money) so they can use that money to gold plate more crucifixes to rape children with and then spend more money protecting those child-rapists.

We need to actually contact our legislators and got something done about these threats to the health and safety and rights of all of us.
Posted by K X One on February 20, 2013 at 1:18 PM · Report this
sikandro 6
"Sure, a physician could theoretically refer a terminal patient to a doctor on the mainland for help acquiring life-ending drugs, but hopping a ferry for a road trip isn't practical for someone who already feels so awful they want to end their life. On San Juan Island, Death with Dignity is functionally useless."

What I'm curious about is whether the drugs would have been available at this hospital to begin with. The article would be more convincing on this front if there were comparisons to other (secular) remote or rural hospitals, and if those hospitals were indeed carrying the drugs and performing, or at least offering, the procedures.

I'm also curious, but this is more on a tangent, if the drugs used in assisted suicide are the same ones used for lethal injection in prisons. The last I heard, the European manufacturers of those chemicals had started to refuse shipment to the US, since they were being used for executions.
Posted by sikandro on February 20, 2013 at 1:13 PM · Report this
Mittens Schrodinger 5
Great article, Cienna...and frightening, too.
Posted by Mittens Schrodinger on February 20, 2013 at 1:10 PM · Report this
Does that mean these hospitals and their employees would ignore a DNR directive?
Posted by taco hut on February 20, 2013 at 12:31 PM · Report this
Does the author of this article have a list of "Affiliated" Health Care Facilities that are actually bound by the Catholic ERD's? And if memory serves, Swedish did not plan to abide by the DWD Act long before Providence came along.
Posted by Thomas122 on February 20, 2013 at 12:21 PM · Report this
They are using licensing regulations to force abortion clinics out of business in "red states". I think the most important part of this article is the stuff about state senator Kevin Ranker and his bill that would require new or expanding hospitals in the state to prove that they would provide for, or at the very least refer for, all women's health care, family planning, and end-of-life services.

In order to be a hospital, you must provide all the care and services that would imply, if you open, expand, merge or by some reasonable date in the future for existing hospitals.

It's time to start lobbying our representatives.
Posted by Make Pharmacists Fill Perscriptions While We're At It on February 20, 2013 at 10:45 AM · Report this
Wow, scary stuff. Great article
Posted by j2patter on February 20, 2013 at 9:55 AM · Report this

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