The Arizona Republic is reporting
that Sister Margaret McBride, a Catholic nun and an administrator at St.Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, was on call as a member of the hospital's ethics committee in 2009 when faced with a life-or-death situation involving a patient. She was a part of a group of people, including the patient and her doctors, who made the decision to terminate the patient's eleven-week-old fetus in order to save the woman's life.
As a result, the nun has been demoted. Also, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, head of the Phoenix diocese, said she was "automatically excommunicated" because of her action. It is not clear whether the bishop was involved in the decision to demote the nun.
"I am gravely concerned by the fact that an abortion was performed several months ago in a Catholic hospital in this diocese," Olmsted said. "I am further concerned by the hospital's statement that the termination of a human life was necessary to treat the mother's underlying medical condition.
"An unborn child is not a disease. While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother's life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child. The end does not justify the means," he went on to say.
A hospital board chairwoman and the CEO of the hospital said in a joint
letter to the bishop, "If there had been a way to save the pregnancy and still prevent the death of the mother, we would have done it. We are convinced there was not."
According to the medical directives that the hospital follows, abortion
is defined as the directly intended termination of pregnancy, and it is not permitted under any circumstances - even to save the life of the mother.
A second directive says that "operations, treatments and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted...even if they will result in the death of the unborn child."
Faced with a dying pregnant woman and these two directives, the nun chose life for the mother. The bishop, deeply moved by the death of the fetus, would have instead chosen to let the mother and the fetus die together. I am glad that Thomas Olmsted chose voodoo as his life's practice, rather than medicine.