Back in November, I posted the following:
Remember the big push a few years back after the Terri Schiavo mess to encourage people to have a living will for such situations? If you were one of the people who did that, make sure you avoid Catholic health care institutions as they’ve been ordered by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops to ignore people’s wishes and keep patients alive regardless of the circumstance.
When I posted this, I didn’t think it was too terribly daring a thing to post about (although I certainly could have been more specific about the relevant circumstances, which are fairly rare), but for Joel Connelly of the Seattle PI, it apparently struck a nerve, as he left this comment for me:
Would you please spare us your anti-Catholic bigotry? It was disgusting during the I-2000 [sic] campaign. It is despicable now.
A simple call to Providence administrators, or the boss up at St. Joseph Hospital in Bellingham, would have given you honest material with which to work. You could have asked about living wills — in which a person’s wishes get laid out — which are strongly encouraged.
You could have asked about the provision for hospice care, available to everyone regardless of ability to pay.
Or you could have delved into what they’d do in the case of a patient wishing to exercise his/her “right” to end life.
Instead, we get an ignorant screech.
Apparently, on Horsesass.org, one form of religious prejudice is not only acceptable but encouraged.
After reading this, I was genuinely worried that the folks at Compassion and Choices might have overstated their case and that maybe I was being a little too harsh in my post. So I tried to contact a number of local Catholic hospitals via email asking if Connelly was right and that they would refuse the directive that C&C was referencing, but I got nothing back. Then I contacted Connelly directly to see if he could point me to a facility who would “give me honest material with which to work”. Oddly, when I did this, Connelly sent me the name of a hospital administrator to contact, then started walking back his claims after I posted an update to HorsesAss.
By this point, though, I was already starting to become well aware that Connelly was full of shit. In fact, the hospital administrator whose name he gave me wasn’t the only name he passed along. He also sent me the name of a hospital administrator in Canada, despite the fact that this directive was from the United States Council of Catholic Bishops. Connelly apparently knew nothing about the updated directive or the legal and ethical issues involved and simply didn’t care. As far as I can tell, he just assumed that Compassion and Choices was full of it because he doesn’t like them. And he was confident enough about this blind assertion to call me a bigot over it.
Barbara Coombs Lee from Compassion and Choices, however, does know what she’s talking about and does understand the issues involved here. Her latest post details more of the legal and ethical issues behind this decree and points to this article, which quotes from someone a bit more qualified than Connelly:
Alan Meisel, founder and director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Bioethics and Health Law, wonders if Catholic hospitals could be compelled by law to respect patients’ advance directives, regardless of the Church’s moral stance. He says it is not clear whether the legally binding power of an advance directive would outweigh the Church’s right to administer medicine in accordance with its beliefs.
“[If] the hospital seeks to impose a treatment on a patient which that person does not want, to impose that treatment is battery,” he says,but adds a caveat: “One could say since you’ve admitted yourself to a Catholic hospital, that’s a form of consent.
“If I were a patient with a directive,” he continues, “I would probably add to it that I didn’t want to be taken to a Catholic hospital.”
I’m sure Joel Connelly will get his typewriter out now and send Meisel a little note informing him that he needs to spare us all his anti-Catholic bigotry.
UPDATE: In somewhat related news, the Montana Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that legalizes death with dignity in that state.