Gina Vaynshteyn
December 07, 2013 2:00 pm

Sometimes it’s really difficult to read or listen to the news because I’m constantly reminded that even though the human race has remarkably progressed in the last thirty years, there are still some gaping potholes in the road and no one is bothering to fix them. When I hear stories about patients with cancer, or infections that have gone septic, who are not treated with modern day medicine because of a vehement dependence on faith, I just don’t even understand. Are we living in the 21st century or the 15th? Sometimes I seriously don’t know.

I’m not knocking religion; I think it has its place in society, and in many ways, I’m grateful it exists. However, I’m confused as to why some individuals refuse to accept that our bodies need to be treated with science, not just faith. Bacteria is not killed by belief and prayer. When our organs fail, there is no god who can will them to function. In fact, if our organs fail and we need to medically intervene, no god should judge us.

There are complicated cases, I know. Recently a woman, Tamesha Means, who was 18 weeks pregnant, rushed to the hospital because her water broke. Mercy Health, the closest hospital to her home, told her that she was fine and sent her home. They didn’t tell her that she had a miniscule chance of having a healthy, normal pregnancy. In fact, she was putting her body at risk if she kept the baby.

The next day, she began to experience bleeding and pain, so she went to the hospital once more. And again, they sent her home. A few days later, Tamesha returned, now with an infection. Mercy Health was about to kick her out for the last time, except that she started to deliver.  18 weeks early.  The baby didn’t make it, for obvious reasons.

So, how could a hospital allow a woman to suffer and give birth to a child that never even had a chance? How could doctors allow this when they knew all along that this baby would never survive?

Mercy Health is Catholic-sponsored. It must adhere to the “Ethical and Religious Directives,” which are a set of rules created by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. These rules hold precedent over modern medical standards.  So, when Tamesha came in with pregnancy complications, they couldn’t terminate the pregnancy because doing so would conflict with the Catholic directives.  Even though the complication could have killed Tamesha, they did nothing about it. They didn’t even tell her that she had other options. They did not inform her that medically terminating her pregnancy would be the safest option for her and have her no choice in the matter.

This isn’t even the worst case of a hospital’s religious agenda dictating whether a woman survives her pregnancy or not. Across the country, pregnant women are constantly mistreated because even though doctors want to help them, they are not permitted due to the Directives. Over half of the OB/GYNs working in Catholic-sponsored hospitals have expressed their differences with the Directives.

Doctors have watched their patients die because they are not allowed to terminate pregnancies. One doctor described a  “miscarrying patient who was dying before his eyes, septic, with a 106 degree fever, her eyes filling with blood,” but because her baby had a heartbeat, she was not allowed to be treated properly.

I’m not going to advocate that all hospitals with religious affiliations should be condemned. Many of these hospitals help those who are in need of medical treatment but don’t have insurance. I don’t think these hospitals allow all of their patients to die just because. This isn’t even Christian Science. But they are treating a woman’s uterus differently from, let’s say, a man’s liver. Or a person’s lungs. If a patient were to come in with a broken leg, this hospital would most likely x-ray it and then place it in a cast. However, if a woman who is two months pregnant came in with premature bleeding, they would turn her away. These patients’ organs should be treated with equal care.

Patients should be given a choice. They should be told the truth. So many women seek medical support from institutions that make it seem as though they only have one choice because any other would be considered a sacrilegious abortion. Ideally, pregnant women who are at risk of dying should be treated accordingly. As in, with medical expertise, not religious doctrine.

Featured image via NPR

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