Bishop rescinded hospital affiliation


US CONTROVERSY:A US Catholic bishop has reaffirmed his decision to strip Arizona’s largest hospital of its Catholic affiliation after he ruled that a decision to save the life of a mother by terminating her 11-week pregnancy was morally wrong.

In December 2010, Bishop Thomas Olmsted announced that St Joseph’s hospital could no longer be considered to be Catholic. The ruling broke a relationship that stretched back to the hospital’s founding by the Sisters of Mercy more than 100 years ago.

In recent months he reaffirmed his decision on the basis that it did not “faithfully adhere to the ethical and religious directives for Catholic health-care services”.

The case concerned a woman in her 20s who had a history of abnormally high blood pressure that was under control before she became pregnant.

However, doctors were concerned on learning of the pregnancy about the extra burden that would be placed on her heart, and they monitored her closely. Tests showed that in the early stages of pregnancy her condition deteriorated rapidly and that before long her pulmonary hypertension – which can impair the working of the heart and lungs – had begun to seriously threaten her life.

Doctors informed her that the risk of death was high if she continued with the pregnancy.

Decision to save mother

There were further consultations with the patient, her family, her doctors and the hospital’s ethics team, and the decision to go ahead with an abortion was taken in order to save the mother’s life.

The hospital’s president, Linda Hunt, said the hospital’s actions had been “consistent with our values of dignity and justice. If we are presented with a situation in which a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life, our first priority is to save both patients. If that is not possible we will always save the life we can save, and that is what we did in this case . . . Morally, ethically, and legally we simply cannot stand by and let someone die whose life we might be able to save.”