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Profile: St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center

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St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center logo.St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center logo. [Source: PR Newswire]The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix strips a Catholic hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, of its affiliation with the church because hospital doctors ended a woman’s pregnancy to save her life. Bishop Thomas Olmsted calls the procedure, performed by hospital surgeons in 2009, an abortion, and says the procedure violated ethical and religious directives of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. “In the decision to abort, the equal dignity of mother and her baby were not both upheld,” Olmsted explains. “The mother had a disease that needed to be treated. But instead of treating the disease, St. Joseph’s medical staff and ethics committee decided that the healthy, 11-week-old baby should be directly killed.” The hospital does not receive funding directly from the church, but it can no longer celebrate Mass and must remove the Blessed Sacrament from its chapel. St. Joseph’s president Linda Hunt defends the hospital’s actions, saying: “If we are presented with a situation in which a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life, our first priority is to save both patients. If that is not possible, we will always save the life we can save, and that is what we did in this case. Morally, ethically, and legally, we simply cannot stand by and let someone die whose life we might be able to save.” The hospital says the woman in question, who remains anonymous, has a history of high blood pressure. When she was admitted to the hospital, doctors determined that she was on the brink of death. The hospital’s ethics team concluded the pregnancy could be ended under the church’s ethical directives because “the goal was not to end the pregnancy but save the mother’s life,” the hospital says. Doctors say they consulted with a nun before performing the procedure. Hunt says, “St. Joseph’s will continue through our words and deeds to carry out the healing ministry of Jesus.” The announcement comes after months of talks between the diocese, the hospital, and the hospital’s parent company, Catholic Healthcare West. Olmsted says: “Unfortunately, subsequent communications with leadership at St. Joseph’s and [Catholic Healthcare West] have only eroded my confidence about their commitment to the church’s ethical and religious directives for healthcare. They have not addressed in an adequate manner the scandal caused by the abortion.” Olmsted says he has learned that Catholic Healthcare West also offers contraceptive counseling, voluntary sterilization, and other practices he says violate the ethical and religious directives. (Myers 12/21/2010; KSAZ-TV 12/21/2010)

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