Professor Don Seeman
Religion and Bioethics, REL358WR (Spring 2018)
Saint Paul Hospital Ethics Committee Policy Proposal
It is my belief that the proposal of new policies for services conducted at Saint Paul Hospital should be fully aligned with the mission statement and legacy of the institution:
“Since 1867, our mission at Saint Paul is to put the patient first. Our duty is to give tangibility to Christ’s healing mission and the mercy of the Catholic Church to care for and ensure the wellbeing and good health of our community.”
As a long-term member of the Saint Paul Hospital Ethics Committee, deacon of the Saint Paul Church, and active member of the Sasquatch community, my commitment is not only to the Catholic church but to the people of our wonderful town. To my fellow council members, I propose the following policies on assisted reproductive technologies:
The purpose and legacy of Saint Paul does not align with assisted reproduction procedures. Saint Paul should refuse to provide for any patients, including both insured and under-insured patients, unless the life of the child is unsalvageable and the health of the mother is at risk. It is in our historical Catholic faith to respect the human being “from the very first instant of his existence” (Donum Vitae) and our policies reflect the “premise that the fetus is a human being, a person, from the moment of conception.” (Thomson, 47) Respectful treatment of the unborn child from the moment of conception does not permit abortion.
Abortion operations should only be conducted under extremely special circumstances. In order for a termination of pregnancy, it should be diagnosed by a medical professional that the child’s life is unsustainable and the continuation of the pregnancy will only put the life of the mother at risk. In such a situation, the mother would be referred to Loch Ness Falls Regional Hospital. Loch Ness Falls, Connecticut is located 62 miles west of Sasquatch. This position is aligned with our Catholic roots and mission statement, as it promotes the greater health of our community whilst putting the patient’s health first.
Subsidized In-Vitro Fertilization treatments for under-insured patients should only be referred from Saint Paul Hospital under certain circumstances. IVF treatments that introduce a third-party, such as surrogate, are an unnecessary procedure that would only negatively affect the community at large. The introduction of third or fourth parties into reproduction serve to threaten the identity of the child (Shivanandan, Atkinson, 138) and would also disrupt “the unity and stability of the family with damaging effects on society.” (Donum Vitae) It has been widely documented that many women find motherhood deeply desirable and in multiple religious, including Jewish faith, has been cited as an “imperative religious duty.” (Khan, 3) In Christian faith procreation is highlighted, as stated in the first chapter of Genesis, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis, 1:28) The usage of IVF between a married heterosexual couple may be discussed, and if deemed necessary, referred to nearby institution that conducts these procedures.
Saint Paul Hospital should not conduct IVF procedures because they typically result in the embryo exterminations as the number of eggs that become fertilized is uncontrollable by the procedure. Allowing IVF procedures to occur inside our institution would only increase the demand for abortion services at Saint Paul Hospital, which is why referring patients to a nearby institution seems the most reasonable option. Although the intentions of such services may be in good faith, the decision to not provide in-vitro fertilization at Saint Paul Hospital would not only appease the Catholic faith but also serve to better serve the community as IVF treatments largely are not in the best interest of the community. The policy of whether to conduct In-Vitro Fertilization treatments should be reflective of the mission of Saint Paul Hospital to ensure the wellbeing of our community.
I support the stance that Saint Paul Hospital should conduct pre-natal testing (including amniocentesis) as the early detection of possible medical issues have the potential to be beneficial for both the mother and child. These tests would be utilizing the “significance of present and projected uses of biotechnology to serve human goals beyond healing disease and relieving suffering and to satisfy widespread human desires.” (Kass, 234) The purpose of these tests should be to give time to the family and community of the unborn child to prepare if it is discovered that the child will be born will special needs.
The information discovered from pre-natal testing should not be used to determine whether or not to end the pregnancy as “malformation or a hereditary illness must not be the equivalent of a death sentence.” (Donum Vitae) Some argue that amniocentesis may lead to miscarriage. Recent National Institute of Health statistics claim that the pre-natal testing technology is “a very safe technology, adding less than one-half of a percent (.5 percent) to the miscarriage rate.” (Rapp, 32) Pre-natal testing has been deemed safe and is already being widely used by Catholic women. (Rapp, 157) If Saint Paul Hospital discourages the use of In-Vitro Fertilization technologies, there should be a lessened discussion of the usage of unused embryos. Mothers who have undergone IVF treatments at other institutions should be made aware of opportunities in nearby cities to donate their embryos to be used in medical research.
In addition to pre-natal testing, genetic and spiritual counseling should continue to be conducted at Saint Paul Hospital. Catholic belief is that “intervention in this field is inspired also by the Love which she owes to man, helping him to recognize and respect his rights and duties.” (Donum Vitae) Spiritual guidance is a right given to Saint Paul patients that should continue to be honored. Although spiritual counseling has historically been given by Catholic clergy, Saint Paul will be inviting the clergy of other religions to better represent the diverse community the hospital serves. I believe that the Catholic values of Saint Paul Hospital should be reflected in the hospital policies but not forced upon our patients. The ultimate decision of whether to accept any services provided by Saint Paul Hospital should be given to the patient, this includes assisted reproductive technologies and late term genetic testing belongs to the patient. Saint Paul Hospital will be effective in treating all of her patients from all backgrounds as “particular religious or cultural traditions will be heard if the doctors are adept at hearing the voices of their patients.” (Bhattacharyya, 24) The spiritual counseling provided by Saint Paul Hospital is to serve as support to patients and their medical decisions, if desired. Although encouraged, it should not be mandatory for any patients at Saint Paul Hospital.
As the abortion and reproductive services offered at Saint Paul via these policies reflect the mission statement and long-legacy of the institution, it is unlikely that the Saint Paul Foundation and nursing staff will take offense. Elective operations to terminate human life will only be had under emergency conditions. Any nursing staff unwilling to perform these procedures will be reminded that the nature of the operation is for the betterment of the patient and the community. I believe that all of the policies proposed here are a considerate compromise honoring our community’s diversity and our historic Catholic faith. It would be immoral and unjust to conduct procedures deemed unethical by the Saint Paul Foundation, as without them there would be no hospital.
Thank you and God bless.
- Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, “Donum Vitae: Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation: Replies to certain questions of the Day”. February 22, 1987.
- Judith Jarvis Thomson, “A Defense of Abortion.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (1971): 47-66.
- Shivanandan, Mary, and Joseph C. Atkinson. “Person As Substantive Relation and Reproductive Technologies: Biblical and Philosophical Foundations.” Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, vol. 7, no. 3, 2004, pp. 138.
- Kass, Leon. “Reflections on Public Bioethics: A View from the Trenches.” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, vol. 15, no. 3, 2005, pp. 234.
- Kahn, Susan Martha. Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel. Duke University Press, 2000.
- Book of Genesis, Chapters 1-2. New International Version. Biblica, 2011. Web.
- Rapp, Rayna. Testing Women, Testing the Fetus: The Social Impact of Amniocentesis in America. Routledge, 2000.
- Bhattacharyya, Swasti. Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Assisted Reproductive Technology. State University of New York Press, 2006.