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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How do you solve a problem like Maria Margaret?

We've all been in a position at one time or another in our lives when we have to make a tough ethical choice. If we're lucky the choice goes well. If we're unlucky, it goes badly. But the reality of such things is that unless someone has been in our shoes, it's difficult for them to say with certainty that we made the wrong choice. Put simply, some things look much simpler when you're at home on the couch than they do when you're right there in the thick of it. But, all the same, there are some choices that others will not only second-guess, but will feel qualified to castigate you over:

A nun and administrator at a Catholic hospital in Phoenix has been reassigned and rebuked by the local bishop for agreeing that a severely ill woman needed an abortion to survive.

Sister Margaret McBride was on an ethics committee that included doctors that consulted with a young woman who was 11 weeks pregnant late last year, The Arizona Republic newspaper reported on its website Saturday. The woman was suffering from a life-threatening condition that likely would have caused her death if she hadn't had the abortion at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center.

Hospital officials defended McBride's actions but confirmed that she has been reassigned from her job as vice president of mission integration at the hospital.

Okay, so that sounds a bit unfortunate. But, it's a Catholic hospital so, of course, within reason, one has to expect that it will be run somewhat in accordance with Catholic beliefs. So, dismissing her from her position seems, if not right, then at least within the realm of acceptability. Of course, they didn't really stop there:

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, head of the Phoenix Diocese, indicated in a statement that the Roman Catholic involved was "automatically excommunicated" because of the action. The Catholic Church allows the termination of a pregnancy only as a secondary effect of other treatments, such as radiation of a cancerous uterus.


"An unborn child is not a disease. While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother's life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child. The end does not justify the means."

Olmsted added that if a Catholic "formally cooperates" in an abortion, he or she is automatically excommunicated.

As an atheist, I have to concede that excommunication holds no particular terror for me. It's roughly equivalent to someone waving their hands at me and yelling "booga booga!" Perhaps a little disquieting, but mostly just because of the sheer absurdity involved. For Sister McBride, however, I rather expect that being told that she's going to burn in hell for all eternity is a bit more... um... upsetting. And in case you're curious, the reason for the abortion was fairly compelling:

The patient, who hasn't been identified, was seriously ill with pulmonary hypertension. The condition limits the ability of the heart and lungs to function and is made worse, possibly even fatal, by pregnancy.

"This decision was made after consultation with the patient, her family, her physicians, and in consultation with the Ethics Committee, of which Sr. Margaret McBride is a member," the hospital said in a statement issued Friday.

A letter sent to Olmsted Monday by the board chairwoman and the president and CEO of CHW asks Olmsted to provide further clarification about the directives. The pregnancy, the letter says, carried a nearly certain risk of death for the mother.

Right, so, just to sum up: nun makes difficult ethical choice so as to save a woman from near-certain death, procedure saves woman's life, nun's superiors remove her from her job and tell her that she's going to suffer in torment for all eternity. Like I said, it's a Catholic hospital and it's probably reasonable to expect it to be run somewhat in accordance with Catholic principles. But, that said, it still seems like there's something very, very wrong when this is the situation we find ourselves in.

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Blogger scripto said...

I suspect the Sister knows she did the right thing and it's not up to some dipshit bishop to second guess her. I heard the bishop's spokesdick on NPR explaining that it was the murder of a "child" with some incoherent babble about not doing evil to prevent evil. So I suppose two deaths are better than one. As the World's Worst Catholicâ„¢ let me say don't let these fuckers get their foot in the legislative door or you'll have to go to Canada to buy condoms. My guess is that the majority of American Catholics are horrified by the Olmsted's action. If the Bishops keep up this lurch to the right they're going to drive enough Western catholics away that they're going to have to go out and get real jobs.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 7:32:00 AM  
Blogger Marf said...

But... The fetus would have died anyway with the mother. At least this way one of them survives.

Friday, May 21, 2010 1:50:00 PM  
Blogger Mister Troll said...

it's a... hospital so, of course... one has to expect that it will be run [completely] in accordance with [ethical and legal guidelines].

Fixed it for you.

Saturday, May 22, 2010 2:26:00 AM  

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