Denver, Colorado-area hospitals, Lutheran and Good Samaritan, were to be completely owned by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health Systems as of the end of next month. But the Exempla board has determined that they cannot support the sale due to the restrictions that Catholic ownership would place on reproductive services offered at the hospitals. Procedures like tubal ligations and emergency abortions would no longer be offered at either hospital if the sale goes through, and the board considers this to be a detriment to the communities the hospitals serve. (Less than 15% of the Colorado population is Catholic). In addition, the board has questioned how the sale proceeds ($311 million) are to be used.
The hospital sale has been in the works for a year. During that time, the board has maintained that they would only support the sale if a suitable replacement was found for the services that would be eliminated under the Catholic Ethical and Religious Directives. The board also wanted some restrictions on the use of the hospital sale proceeds. They maintain that neither of these requirement has been met, hence the lawsuit, which – according to the Exempla board – will likely take several months to resolve.
I’m impressed by the Exempla board’s actions today. Life is full of tough decisions, and the health care world is no exception. Discussions about end of life care, family planning, rape counseling, and emergency abortions – performed to save the life of a mother or a remaining twin fetus – are never easy. They should involve a combination of a doctor’s medical perspective and a patient’s needs and values. The ethics of a religion that may or may not coincide with the patient’s beliefs should have no part in the discussion or resulting medical treatment.