Put Patients' Beliefs First, Liberal Religious Group Tells Health Providers

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Because many denominations flourish in America, health care providers should respect the beliefs of their patients and not try to impose their own doctrines on them, a liberal religious group said Tuesday, releasing a statement that conservative analysts derided as "unchristian" and "ludicrous."

"Our nation is facing a crisis of faith," Barbara Kavadias of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), said during a telephone news conference announcing the release of what it called "guidelines for the ethical provision of health care in a pluralistic society."

"Nowhere is this more apparent than in health care, where a growing number of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others are refusing to provide, refer or even tell their patients about care options that they feel are not in keeping with their own religious beliefs," Kavadias said.

"Institutions are refusing to provide essential care, citing their religious commitment or their supposed institutional conscience," she added. "We in the broad religious community find this intolerable."

The RCRC issued the report after two years of review and discussion to "provide guidance to both the interfaith and secular society on how to provide health care that balances and respects the needs of all patients and providers, along with the universal values and principles that inform this advice," Kavadias said.

The 16-page statement lists 33 guidelines on topics ranging from general health care to refusals to provide care. Some include:
    Each person should enjoy the right to health, health care, direct access to health care, regardless of the ownership of the health institutions; Institutions that "because of sectarian commitments" restrict "information and/or medical practice" relating to reproductive health options, end-of-life care or advanced directives should not be publicly funded and should never be a given region's sole health care provider. They should also be obligated to disclose their stance unambiguously to patients beforehand; Health institutions must support unimpeded professional judgment and medical decisions, based on best contemporary practices; A woman's ability to opt for an abortion should not be compromised by economic, educational, class, marital status, age, race, geographic location or inadequate information; and All pharmacies should provide the full range of contraceptive options, including emergency contraception.
Kavadias was particularly critical of Catholic hospitals - where one in five Americans currently receive health care - saying those facilities "refuse to provide a whole slew of reproductive and end-of-life services."

"And now, to make matters worse, the government is codifying this refusal, first through legislation, and now with the recent Supreme Court decision" upholding a federal ban on partial-birth abortions, she said.

"Five Catholic men decided they could better determine what was moral and good than the physicians, women and families facing difficult personal choices and problematic pregnancies," Kavadias commented, referring to Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

"We will meet with denominations to pass resolutions adopting these guidelines," she said.


Wendy Wright, president of the conservative group Concerned Women for America, told Cybercast News Service that "for people who usually demand we tolerate diversity," those who prepared the document were "incredibly intolerant of people who have different moral beliefs than they do."

"It is incredibly duplicitous for them to argue from a 'conscience' standpoint to demand that other people be forced to do something contrary to their beliefs," she charged. "It would be like telling these people they must provide money for crisis pregnancy centers. They would scream that such an action goes against their moral beliefs."

Bill Saunders, senior fellow in bioethics for the Family Research Council, called the RCRC guidelines a "ludicrous proposition."

"Here we have an interfaith religious coalition that's offended by the Catholic point of view. Isn't it ironic and paradoxical that they're condemning people for acting in accordance with their religious conscience when their condemnation springs from their religious conscience?" Saunders said.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, told Cybercast News Service he considers it "so unchristian for these people to call into question the religious conviction of Roman Catholics ... it smacks of bigotry."

"If people want to disagree, [they should] just say that 'we like to see babies killed in the womb and we don't agree with people who have religious convictions otherwise,' and then we can have an honest debate," he said. "Instead, they try to impugn the moral credentials of people they disagree with."

Noting that RCRC representatives included last week's Supreme Court decision on partial-birth abortion in their comments, Donohue added, "hard core feminists are going through convulsions because women in America aren't rioting in the streets demanding their right to kill their child when he's 80 percent born."

"They need a reality check so they can meet the rest of America," he added.

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