(Editor's note: Sr. Carol Keehan's letter to the editor of The New York Times, which is reprinted here, was not published in that newspaper. Her letter was published on the CHA website.)
The New York Times editorial published on Dec. 8 ("When Bishops Direct Medical Care") was misleading and in error. It is especially regrettable that such a respected publication would rush to judgment without validating the facts.
Catholic hospitals in the United States have a stellar history of caring for mothers and infants. Hundreds of thousands of patients have received extraordinary care — both in the joy of welcoming an infant or in the pain of losing one.
In many communities in our country, the Catholic hospital's maternity service is the designated center for high-risk pregnancies. It is inaccurate and irresponsible to assert that these wonderful community services are unsafe for mothers in an obstetrical emergency, simply because a Catholic hospital adheres to the Ethical and Religious Directives. This can be frightening to families and is grossly disrespectful to the thousands of physicians, midwives and nurses who are so devoted to their patients and to the care they deliver.
The inaccuracy of this assertion is easily proven. We are fortunate in this country to have several independent organizations with oversight responsibility for all hospitals. Nationally, for most hospitals it is the Joint Commission and, in each state, there is a licensing agency. Both organizations have robust standards and inspections. They would not accredit or license a hospital that is unsafe for mothers or infants under any circumstance.
Add to that the commitment of health professionals caring for these mothers. They accept many personal disruptions in their schedules to be there for mothers and infants 24/7. They would not tolerate working in a clinical setting that is detrimental to their patients.
Premature rupture of membranes is one of the most stressful obstetrical events. In this situation, the infant is almost always much desired; parents want and need to know that every option for saving their baby was exhausted. This is not a simple clinical situation that you "take care of" and then move on. Anyone who has ever cared for these parents knows that this will always be the child they lost.
There is nothing in the Ethical and Religious Directives that prevents the provision of quality clinical care for mothers and infants in obstetrical emergencies. Their experience in hundreds of Catholic hospitals over centuries is outstanding testimony to that.
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