Debate Over Catholic Directives That Affect 13 Percent of US Hospitals


After a merger, Moon said, hospitals and their physicians could alter their behavior to adhere to the directives and suddenly stop prescribing medication like contraception for teenagers or other patients, even for people who they had been previously treated at the hospital before the directives were in place.

Moon worries that patients, who have created their own advanced directive to tell medical staff what treatment they want if they are incapacitated, could face problems if the hospital where they are treated merges with a Catholic institution. The Catholic directives state that the institution will not adhere to the patient's own advance directive if it conflicts with the Catholic guidelines issued by the bishops.

"We want people to have the right of their own conscience," said Moon of patients deciding on their end-of-life care.

Haas said the guidelines were not dissimilar to other institutions, where a patient's advance directive would be disregarded if it conflicted with the hospital guidelines.

The ACLU is suing on behalf of Tamara Means for an unspecified amount of money and "a declaration" that actions of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops were negligent. According to the lawsuit, Means is asking for this "not only to provide a remedy for the trauma she suffered, but also to prevent other women in her situation from suffering similar harm in the future."

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