Forced Feedings At Your Local Catholic Hospital.

Forced Feedings At Your Local Catholic Hospital.
Posted by Ann Neumann - January 29, 2010

n November, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops changed the policies they use to govern all 624 Catholic hospitals in the country. As the second largest provider of health care in the US, the Catholic Church enforces 72 Ethical and Religious Directives at all hospitals, hospices, long-term care facilities and in all 60 of their health care networks.

The new directive, quietly made official even while the USCCB was working to make abortion the central, discriminatory focus of health care reform with the Stupak and Nelson amendments, now considers artificial nutrition and hydration as “obligatory” care.

What this means is that despite your advance directive (living will) or the wishes of your family or medical proxy, the Catholic hospital is required to surgically insert feeding and hydration tubes into your body – against your wishes – should they deem it necessary.

As Barbara Coombs Lee, President of Compassion & Choices writes at their blog:

"Prompted by The Terri Schiavo case, the Pope [John Paul II] sided with the picketers outside Ms. Schiavo’s hospice room, declaring that tube-feeding patients in a permanent vegetative state “always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act” and should “be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate.”

Did the pope’s guidelines allow for the patient’s view of benefits and burdens? Some ethicists still thought yes, but a September, 2007 response from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF, formerly called the Office of the Inquisition), said:

No. A patient in a ‘permanent vegetative state’ is a person with fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means."

What does this mean for you and your family? Should one of you suffer a traumatic accident and find yourself at a Catholic hospital – as 1 in 5 patients does – you will not have the ability to make your own medical decisions regarding the kind of care you want.

What allows the Catholic Church to deny you your rights as a patient? The laws are numerous and discriminatory, from the Hyde Amendment to the Bush “conscience clause.” And don’t think terminal patients are the only ones denied scientific, medically-sound care in Catholic facilities: rape victims are often not given emergency contraception, unmarried women cannot receive fertility services, gays will not be counseled on STD or AIDS prevention, women are denied tubal ligations and contraception, men can’t receive sterilizations…the list goes on. What’s more, they are not required to inform you of all medically-sound options, nor refer you to a doctor or facility that will honor your wishes. All the while, each of these facilities receives tax-exempt status and 50% of their funding from the government.

These laws allow religious institutions to enforce their doctrinal codes on all doctors and patients. What patients’ rights? The US, despite decades of trying, still has no patients’ bill of rights – precisely because the Catholic Church would be put out of business (and the medical industry has abetted them by strongly opposing government regulated).

So here’s the warning: Know your state’s laws about advance directives, talk to your family about your wishes, and don’t ever let an ambulance take you or someone you love to a Catholic facility. The Pope is ready to decide what health care you receive, even if that means force-feeding you to prolong death, and he doesn’t really care what your rights are.

Ann Neumann is currently working on two books: a literary memoir about death, grief and travel; and an investigation of patients' rights and end of life suffering. Ann blogs about religion and death at, where links to her articles can be found.

Views: 168

Comment by Sydni Moser on January 30, 2010 at 8:13pm
Both my parent's had advance directives and I was their health care proxy. Life support had to be halted for each of them once they had reached the point where their quality of life was no longer what they would have wished to endure. They had made their wishes known to me, and I followed through. In my mother's case, the hospital did try to fight my request for her to receive no life support, and her Do Not Resuscitate directive, but I was able to fight for her request and won.

I can't imagine being in a situation where I would not be allowed to die in peace once I reach the final stages of my life. This is a total invasive infringement by the church to facilitate their own objectives to sustain life at any cost to the suffering of the person involved. Make sue that your directives are known that you do not want to end up in a Catholic hospital for any serious health reason...
Comment by Misty: Baytheist Living! on January 31, 2010 at 12:47pm
I am so getting the fuck out of this country as soon as possible. This is just scary.
Comment by Sydni Moser on March 30, 2010 at 8:22am
I do wonder if there is not call for a law suit against any Catholic hospital who goes against the civil rights of an individual who has a Living Will and authorizes a Power of Attorney to dictate their medical wishes. This policy of the Catholic Church does not recognize our secular rights and laws in this country.


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