Jerry Kopel

St. Joseph's

January 24, 2010

By Jerry Kopel

People who have health insurance through Kaiser had better be made aware of what is contained in a 16 page directive drafted by and guiding Catholic Bishops across the nation regarding treatment of hospital patients. The major words are "Catholic moral principles" which form the basis of the document and in effect have to be coped with by the patient who anticipates disagreement with that standard.

Exempla Lutheran, Exempla Good Samaritan, Exempla Healthcare, Exempla Saint Joseph, and Exempla System Services all lost health leadership that had been in place through the transfer of powers to the Kansas-based Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth. The transfer was debated before the Denver City Club in December and every luncheon participant was provided with a copy of the Bishops' directive.

Kaiser patients are usually treated at medical facilities involved in this recent transfer of ownership and management. (Swedish Medical Center in Englewood is also used by Kaiser and is not under Exempla.)

The issue of religion is discussed by itself, providing the director of pastoral care should be a Catholic unless an exemption is approved by the diocesan bishop. Thus a Protestant or Jew, regardless of whether they accept the Bishops' directive cannot be appointed regardless of the talent brought to the position without an approval by the bishop. In early January, Exempla board chairman William Murray announced the dismissal of five officers from positions of authority in the hospital system and replacements.

I expected a strong sectarian defense of an anti-abortion position as stated in the Wall Street Journal that "the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is one of the most powerful anti-abortion groups." The Bishops' directive requires obedience to a process and choices available to the now more-seriously sectarian hospital system.

Major speaker at the City Club noon lunch was attorney Frances Koncilja who blamed State Attorney General John Suthers for not stopping the hospital take over.

Unless the hospital receives money raised by taxation or public borrowing, it is not covered under CRS 24-34-401, Colorado's anti-discrimination statute. The Bishop directive however provides for no discrimination against employees on race, sex, age, national origin, or disability, or rights to bargain collectively. The statement on employment did not include "religion."

Sisters of Charity did not pay the former hospital authority for the value of the property. Hopefully they will use such funds to follow the biblical mandate to care for the poor. There seems to be a high priority for care for the poor, the uninsured and the underinsured in the opening pages of the directive.

The terms "the protection of life from conception until death" is a major directive. There are exceptions, such as in denial of sterilization for either men or women unless a serious pathology cannot otherwise be overcome. On the other hand, denial of contraceptives in any form before or after conception is clear.

Beyond normal conception you will find conception occurring other than by copulation between the married couples as the "wrong way" to go. Fertilization involving a donor other than the spouse , or homologous artificial fertilization for extra-corporeal conception, or surrogate motherhood get a definite "no", but does not in any way that would hurt the baby being born. If fact, if the unborn child has a serious defect, fetal diagnosis is not permitted if the intent of the parent would be abortion.

Most of the ways when non-normal copulation occurs, the Bishops' directive might provide a gateway if there is a real possibility of the death of the mother.

Religion is there at the last moment if a newly born infant is in danger of dying or already miscarried. The infant should, so direct the bishops, be baptized. Anyone can validly baptize, and the baptism record will be sent to the parish where the institution is located.

For the elderly ready to die: The directive allows food and drink to the dying contrary to decisions made as advance direction under Colorado statutes when the sustaining process is not sought and would be rejected even if such rejection is contrary to Catholic moral teaching.

The choice between a request by a patient contrary to the moral teaching of the Church is to be judged by the teaching authority of the Church even if contrary to the medical procedure sought by the patient.

How will the Catholic Church direction be applied to patients insured by Medicare or Medicaid? Here is wriggle room. One consideration is patients' burden of excessive expense for the family or the community.

Suicide and euthanasia are forbidden. The patient can be provided remedies for pain but will be provided reminders of and understanding of the redemptive suffering of Christ.

The directive has some wriggle room, but not enough for me.

If I somehow find myself taken to the nearest hospital which turns about to be under the Sisters, this column is to be used as my demand to be sent to Rose Hospital.

A strict sectarian Catholic should have the right to observe religious standards, but other patients should have the right to be transferred to other medical facilities or have someone from their own religion available at the end of life.

(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

Home  Full archive  Biographies  Colorado history  Colorado legislature  Colorado politics   Colo. & U.S. Constitutions  Ballot issues  Consumer issues  Criminal law  Gambling  Sunrise/sunset (prof. licensing)


Copyright 2015 Jerry Kopel & David Kopel