Monday, May 14, 2007

Cardinal clashes with hospital over ethics code


from the Telegraph:

Doctors at a hospital popular with celebrity mothers will this week rebel against a proposed ban on providing contraceptives and abortion referrals and demand that Britain's most senior Catholic cleric step down as its patron.Staff at the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth in north London, where actresses including Cate Blanchett and Emma Thompson and models such as Kate Moss and Heather Mills have given birth, are unhappy at a suggested new code of ethics which will prevent them offering any service that conflicts with Catholic teaching on the value of human rights.
The code will require doctors to refer any woman who inquires about contraception, the morning-after pill and abortion to another hospital and prevent the use of amniocentesis to detect Down's syndrome in unborn children and in vitro fertilisation for couples unable to conceive naturally.
On Wednesday, the hospital's medical advisory committee will tell the hospital board that opposition to the proposed rules from staff and resident GPs is overwhelming. It will suggest that a "secular" code of ethics be adopted instead and call for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor to resign as patron.
Dr Martin Scurr, the chairman of the hospital's ethics committee, has already informed board members of the advisory committee's position. In a letter, he told them: "It is to be anticipated that the Cardinal will withdraw his patronage from the hospital.
"The hospital will continue as a non-Catholic hospital, with a Catholic heritage, and a new ethics committee will subsequently be formed which must evolve a code of ethics which is acceptable to the secular cadre of clinicians of the hospital, in alignment with the jurisdiction of the General Medical Council."
A lot depends, of course, on the Trust Deeds, which actually bind the Hospital to the Church. But this however seems to be yet another of those institutions like our adoption agencies, our schools, the former CIIR, Cafod, etc. etc., you can add to the list yourself if you like, of "Catholic" institutions that in trying to come to terms with modern secular society are distancing themselves from being real parts of the Church and its mission, and merely hanging on to their Catholic heritage or depending a bankrupt and misplaced Catholic ethos.
To paraphrase the Pope in Brazil: it is either Mission or Die!

5 comments:

Luke Gormally said...

Dear Fr Blake,

Your readers should know that the Telegraph report is serioulsy erroneous in saying that the new Code of Ethics for the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth will require doctors to refer patients elsewhere for contraception, abortion, etc. The new Code has been introduced in large part to make unambiguously clear that referrals for procedures or treatment contrary to the Church's moral teaching are not permitted at the Hospital, since such referrals themselves constitute cooperation in evil. An honest reading of the previous Code should have been seen to exclude such referrals, but a non-Catholic management intent on attracting more and more non-Catholic consultants to the Hospital (and supported in this by the Hospital's predominantly 'Catholic' Board)claimed that referrals were not excluded by the Code.

It should also be noted that were the Cardinal to cease to be Patron of the Hospital it would make no difference at all to his legal right and obligation in the Constitution of the Hospital to determine what ethical norms should govern clinical practice in the Hospital, nor would it make any difference to his obligations at Senior Trustee of the Brampton Trust to ensure that the assets of the Trust are not used for anything other than Catholic purposes. His obligations as Brampton Trustee are particularly relevant to what is happening at the Hospital since the Trust has mortgaged its property to the tune of £15.2millions to cover the Hospital's debts to the banks, debts largely incurred for developments which are designed to intensify the secularization of the Hospital, more particularly by accommodating a 5-doctor NHS GP Practice, which is fully signed up to the GP contract, including the provision of 'family planning services' (abortion referrals, insertion of IUDs, prescribing of 'emergency contraception', etc).

What remains to be seen is whether the Cardinal will exercise his rights and discharge his obligations. If he fails to do so the chances of saving this Hospital as a Catholic institution are dim. This would be a tragedy when there is an urgent need to offer a real alternative to the culture of death which is widespread in contemporary medicine.

Luke Gormally

Fr Ray Blake said...

Thank you for the clarification, Professor Gormally. I am so glad we have and can trust the Lianacre Centre.

I found the referral of patients for abortions etc. very worrying, rather like Catholic Adoption Agencies wanting to continue in business by referring homosexual couples who want to adopt to other agencies.

flabellum said...

I believe that the Vatican is watching this very closely. If Cardinal Cormac fails to maintain the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth as a Catholic institution he can expect his 75th birthday letter to receive a prompt affirmative reply.

Augustinus said...

We need to pray for His Eminence. I'm not convinced that he is not out of his depth on this.

The bottom line, as it looks to me, is that if the Trust cannot adopt a truly Catholic Code of Ethics, then the title 'Catholic' should be removed and the Church should sever all connections with the hospital.

Sad though that would be, at least a degree of Catholic truth, honesty and integrity would be preserved. I'm sure the Cardinal doesn't want this fight.

Luke Gormally said...

The challenge of the secularists' agenda to rob the Catholic community of a distinctive institutional presence in society has to be confronted by the leadership of the Church in this country. If there is a supine failure to do so we can look to the purloining of one Catholic institution after another. That would be a disaster for a Church which is not a purely spiritual community but one in which the life of charity finds distinctive institutional embodiments which are vital to the common good.

It is the legal duty of the Trustees of the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth to uphold its Catholic character and to honour the requirements of its constitution.