Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Life & Death: A Perfect Storm in 2012
I recently read about a Seattle hospital's merger into a company that followed the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic church in its policies, most notably with regard to life’s beginning and ending.
Along with Oregon, Washington is one of two states in the country where voters have sanctioned the legalization of physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill, a sanction that couldn't be honored in a Catholic-run hospital. But can a hospital refuse treatment voters have approved?
A similar hospital merger in Louisville was stopped by Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear in late December over concerns that included restrictions in reproductive services. "In my opinion,” the governor said, “the risks to the public outweigh the potential benefits."
According to USA Today, in Troy, NY, a maternity ward was created, free from Catholic restrictions and separately licensed, on the second floor of a secular hospital taken over by a Catholic system. And to ease concerns about affiliating with a Catholic system, Swedish Medical Center in Seattle agreed to fund a Planned Parenthood office next door.
“In the past few years, proposed mergers between Catholic and secular hospitals in Louisville, Ky., and Sierra Vista, Ariz., have collapsed in part because of concerns about the church's bans on abortions, in-vitro fertilizations and sterilizations,” USA Today reported recently.
San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West, its growth prospects compromised, is ending its Catholic affiliation and changing its name -- to Dignity Health, not to be confused with Dignity 2012, the organization promoting physician-assisted suicide in Massachusetts.
I recalled these scenarios this week as I read about the staunchly Catholic GOP candidate Rick Santorum’s primary night sweep; criticisms by Santorum, House Speaker (and Catholic) John Boehner and others of President Obama’s controversial new contraceptive policy; and the state Supreme Court declaring unconstitutional Georgia’s ban on advertising assisted suicide. (The practice of assisting in suicide isn’t actually illegal in the state, only the advertising of it.)
Throw in California's newly overturned Proposition 8, and the separation of church and state is becoming a perforated line at best, or perhaps a rift.
In the Georgia ruling, the court suggested the state could formally legalize assisted suicide, and perhaps that is what Georgia legislators will do (NOTE: See correction in attached Comments). Meanwhile, in Massachusetts (39 percent Catholic in 2008), the question of legalizing physician-assisted suicide will be put to the voters in November.
Life, death, faith and choice are in for a profound going-over this election year.
By Paul McLean at 6:41 PM