Monday, May 28, 2007

Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth: continuing saga

Update 28/05/07: the final showdown has been delayed.

From CFNews: A crunch meeting over the adoption of a proposed new code of ethics at the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth in London has ended in deadlock. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor resisted pressure to reject the code forbidding doctors working from the Catholic hospital from providing contraceptives and abortion referrals. But hospital board members also rejected demands by Church leaders to accept the code, which makes it explicitly clear that anyone working from the hospital facilities or premises will not be able to offer any service which conflicts with Catholic teaching on either the value of human life or on sexual ethics. A spokeswoman for the hospital said it was 'decided that further professional research and assessment would be undertaken for the consideration of the board at its next meeting'. Speaking after the meeting, Lord Bridgeman, chairman of the board, said: 'We are, therefore, seeking expert professional advice and will weigh up the legality and viability of the options before us conscientiously before we take any final decisions.

Meanwhile, all who use and work in the hospital should be confident that we will continue to put the needs of our patients first and foremost and provide the high quality care for which we are rightly famous.' The code would also stop doctors referring elsewhere any women who inquire at the hospital about contraception, the morning-after pill or abortion. It also bans amniocentesis to detect Down's syndrome in unborn children and in vitro fertilisation for couples struggling to conceive naturally. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor ordered the code to be revised after it was revealed that GPs had been prescribing the morning-after pill and referring women for abortions. The Cardinal, as patron of the hospital, had ordered an inquiry in 2005 after the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, a Catholic bioethical institute which shared the site at the time, raised concerns that some doctors -most of whom were not Catholic - were flouting the existing code.

One surgeon even admitted to carrying out 'phalloplasties', a sex change operation in which prosthetic penises are attached to women who want to be men. Nicholas Bellord, the secretary of the Restituta Group, which is campaigning for the hospital to keep its Catholicity, said that Church leaders were made aware of their legal obligations in the days before the meeting. He said: 'We were able, with the assistance of John Finnis, Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy at Oxford, to provide a statement of the legal position to all members of the board prior to their meeting. We are glad to hear that this statement of the legal position has caused the board to step back from the brink of the abyss of secularising the hospital. Now, however, we sincerely hope that they [the board] will follow the request of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the arbiter on ethics at the hospital, to accept the revised code of ethics and make the extensive reforms necessary at the hospital so that it once again becomes a truly Roman Catholic hospital following the teachings of the Church as required by their legal constitution.'

He added: 'We further note that, in the meantime, they will follow the old code of ethics which has frequently been ignored in the past and that the needs of patients will be put first and foremost. We trust this will extend to all patients from the moment of conception to natural death.' The row over ethics erupted after the Medical Advisory Committee of the hospital said the majority of doctors were opposed to the new code.

Briefing, 14/05/07. See here for previous post.

From CFNews: Doctors at a the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth in London are rebelling against a proposed ban on providing contraceptives and abortion referrals and demand that Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor step down as its patron. Some staff say they 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. 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.' The hospital was founded by the Catholic Church in 1856. Although it is a Roman Catholic charity, as a private hospital which charges fees for its services it also accepts referrals from the National Health Service and patients of all religious faiths. Two years ago, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor ordered an inquiry after the Linacre Centre of Health Care Ethics, which at the time shared the site with the hospital, claimed that some doctors, most of whom were not Catholic, were flouting the existing code.

The Cardinal later wrote to Lord Bridgeman, the chairman of the hospital, to say that a revised code would be produced and that the hospital had to abide by it. 'There must be clarity that the hospital, being a Catholic hospital with a distinct vision of what is truly in the interests of human persons, cannot offer its patients, non-Catholic or Catholic, the whole range of services routinely accepted by many in modern secular society as being in a patient's best interest,' he wrote. Yesterday, a spokesman for Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said: 'The Cardinal is expecting that the board takes the decision to maintain the status quo under which the hospital operates as a Catholic institution.' However, he admitted that the Cardinal was likely to resign if he did not win the support of the board. 'It is rightfully the board that decides,' he said. 'If they reject the new code of ethics then the Cardinal will have to consider his position.' Nicholas Bellord, the chairman of Restituta, a group set up to campaign for the hospital to keep its Catholic identity, said that his organisation would take 'immediate legal action' if the code were not accepted in its entirety.


John Kearney said...

This is a case of the Triumph of Bigotry. Those who went to work at this hospital knew it was a Catholic Charity yet so poor was their personal integrities that they feel they can now just take over and make it non-catholic. Who owns the buildings? If it is still the Catholic Church then let them sell it and give the staff what they deserve - unemployment

Robert Sieger said...

Everyone knows that the Catholic Church is an Irish institution in the UK. Catholic medicine cannot be forced on non-Catholics, especially in a country where but 1/100 of the population are practising Catholics (1/10 nominally Catholic in total, only a tenth of which practise).

Time to grow up. The 1950s are gone.

Robert Sieger

Webmaster said...

What a bizarre comment by Mr Sieger. Are all Catholic institutions going to be stolen by secularists just because Catholics are a minority? Schools too? Why not church buildings? How many times do we have to build them up from scratch, so they can be taken away from us again?

John Kearney said...

Mr Sieger fails to recognise that this is not just about Catholicism but the right of every institution religious or otherwise to practice what they believe in. Nobody is forcing anything on patients. Those who go to a Catholic hospital have every right to respect the code of that hospital. If they disagree they can go elsewhere. They are free agents. What they do not have the right to do is what Mr Sieger is trying to do, force their sedcular ethics on others. Are we now a fascist state where everyone most toe the line?

RK said...

The impasse at St John and St Elizabeth is the tip of an iceberg; most Catholic doctors do not take a stand against the culture of death in their practice- this applies especially GP's, who can now be prosecuted for not providing "reproductive services". It would be good for the Church/ Cardinal to see this through to the end and it may then encourage Catholic doctors elsewhere to stand by their natural right to practice medicine ethically.

Anonymous said...

PH. As an orthodox Catholic and a member of the nursing profession I have recently resigned my post on ethical grounds connected to the practise of abortion. Contrary to the seemingly 'popular opinion' that most of the staff members of St John and St Elizabeth Hospital along with the general public are against the new Code of Ethics,I would point out that any doctor or nurse, in particular a Catholic who agrees to the 'free for all' culture of death' attitude that seems to prevail at present give thought to their VOCATION and question their adherence to the Teachings of the Church.

Anonymous said...

As a non-catholic trans man (FTM i.e born female, now a man) who was fortunate enough to receive phalloplasty surgery from Mr. Ralph's team, I would like to point out that such surgery is indeed life saving.

As recent research for the Government's Equalities Review has shown (see: ) one in 3 trans people (35%) seriously attempt to commit suicide over the age of 21, before treatment. A similar number (31%) attempt suicide before the age of 21. These are only the attempts - there is no record of those who succeeded.

To put these figures in context, a survey of 6,000 patients with 'mental health disorders as a consequence of severe childhood trauma' found that only 19% had attempted to commit suicide in their junior and adult life combined.

Of the many trans people who have successfully transitioned to living in their preferred gender role, and who have had the surgery they desire, it is estimated that only 1 in 100 (1%) attempt to commit suicide.

Gender reassignment surgery IS life saving surgery. Without it we would be witnessing the wilful genocide of the transsexual community. Doctors and surgeons like Mr. Ralph and his team are practicing the real and best duty of all doctors; to save life.

Hercules said...

Dear Anonymous,

Yes, it is not surprising that people with mental health problems are more likely to attempt suicide, but what they need is help with their mental health problems, not sugical mutilation to confrom with their unfortunate desires. Such pandering to the mentally ill is not a real or long-term solution, and it fails to respect them as human beings.

Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen