Stupid Girls

Thursday, May 10, 2012

When Religion Bans Health Care

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By Rogi Riverstone
All rights reserved

Religious-based hospitals receive over forty-five billion U.S. Taxpayer dollars per yer, according to Merger Watch, a watchdog group that works to protect patents' rights when U.S. hospitals merge.

Patients are discovering they lose reproductive health care services and personal decision-making about end-of-life care when secular community hospitals and clinics merge with religiously-sponsored hospitals.
Low-income women and women of Color tend to depend more on hospitals and hospital outpatient clinics for their health care. They, along with rural women who might not have accessible alternative providers, are disproportionately affected by religious health care restrictions. Almost all Catholic hospitals, for instance, are located in rural areas.

Obstetrician–gynecologists,religious institutions, and conflicts regarding patient care policies” is a survey of 1,800 medical professionals. The study, which appears in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

Its Objective:

To assess how common it is for obstetrician-gynecologists working in religiously-affiliated hospitals or practices to experience conflict with those institutions over religiously-based policies for patient care, and to identify the proportion of obstetrician-gynecologists who report that their hospitals restrict their options for treating ectopic pregnancy.”

The results of the survey showed that, among obstetrician–gynecologists who practice in religiously affiliated institutions, more than one third have had a conflict with their institution over religiously-based policies. These conflicts are most common in Catholic institutions (52%). Few report that their options for treating ectopic pregnancy are limited by their hospitals (2.5% at non-Catholic institutions vs. 5.5% at Catholic providers).

Debra Stulberg, an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Chicago Medical School, is lead author of the study. In a news report by NPR, titled, “When Religious Rules And Women's Health Collide,” journalist Julie Rovner interviewed Stulberg about specific impact to women's health.

Stulberg stated that, in Catholic facilities, restrictions on -- and prohibitions against -- abortion are the rule, but that it doesn't end there. Physicians who participated in the study reported to her, in personal conversations, that, in religiously affiliated hospitals the most frequent issues arise around birth control and sterilization, particularly for women who want to be sterilized just after giving birth.

"Those are things that most OB-GYNs support giving to women and that they want to be able to offer to women," Stulberg says. "And they are completely prohibited at Catholic hospitals."

Women who undergo Caesarian section, she says, are often forced to go to a separate hospital and have a second surgery, complete with the further risk of another round of anesthesia. "It's not medically good for a woman to have two surgeries when she could have one," she says.

Only 2.9 percent of physicians treating ectopic pregnancies face restrictions from religously-based hospitals; with Catholic providers, it was 5.5 percent. An ectopic pregnancy occurs outside the uterus, usually in a Fallopian tube, and is life-threatening to the mother. While laproscopic surgeries to remove these non-viable pregnancies are common, a less-invasive drug therapy utilizes Methotrexate, which is ninety percent effective in qualified cases.

Stulberg questions whether Methotrexate therapy will face resistance within religious-based hospitals, swept up with abortion bans.

Stulberg is aware that the survey results bring up more specific questions about quality of care in religously-based hospitals and plans for follow-up research are formulating.