"The procedure performed at St. Joseph's…cannot be described as an abortion"

Anyone who’s been following the still-unfolding story in Phoenix should take time to read this compelling and revealing posting by Grant Gallicho at dotCommonweal:

Last summer, Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix asked Catholic Healthcare West to provide a moral analysis of the case that started this controversy. So CHW secured the services of the moral theologian M. Therese Lysaught. Her analysis, sent to the bishop in October, was rejected by Olmsted last month. We have obtained Lysaught’s cover letter to CHW along with her analysis.

In her cover letter, Lysaught summarizes her conclusion: “The procedure performed at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center on November 5, 2009, cannot properly be described as an abortion. The act, per its moral object, must accurately be described as saving the life of the mother. The death of the fetus was, at maximum, nondirect and praeter intentionem. More likely, the fetus was already dying due to the pathological situation prior to the intervention; as such, it is inaccurate to understand the death of the fetus as an accessory consequence to the intervention.”

Lysaught’s analysis includes a detailed summary of the medical condition of the mother. In October 2009, the mother’s doctor counseled her to terminate the pregnancy because the symptoms of her pulmonary hypertension were worsening. He estimated that, given the advanced state of her disease, she would have a 50-50 chance of surviving the pregnancy. The mother, a Catholic with four children, decided against ending the pregnancy. Less than a month later, she was admitted to St. Joseph’s with more severe symptoms.

Read the rest, along with the various links.

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  • http://www.gerardnadal.com Gerard Nadal

    “In October 2009, the mother’s doctor counseled her to terminate the pregnancy because the symptoms of her pulmonary hypertension were worsening. He estimated that, given the advanced state of her disease, she would have a 50-50 chance of surviving the pregnancy. ”

    And there is the key to this whole mess. Her chances of surviving to 40 weeks were 50/50. That means she was not so bad off that she couldn’t have been taken by ambulance, or by car to the nearest hospital to St. Joseph’s, which is less than a mile away, a three minute ride.

    They had no qualms about doing the abortion at St. Joseph’s because they routinely kill babies there, healthy babies in healthy pregnancies simply because they were conceived in rape or incest.

    The ERD’s have meant NOTHING to these people for over a quarter of a century, and it’s a sick joke to sit here and consider that they seriously considered them in this case.

    Again, the closest hospital was a three minute ride for a woman who was not in immediate danger of death. Were she so bad off, te abortion itself would have proven fatal.

    There are several hospitals in the immediate area who do abortions. THAT”S the issue. See the map at this link:

    http://maps.google.com/maps?client=safari&rls=en&oe=UTF-8&um=1&ie=UTF-8&q=phoenix+hospitals&fb=1&gl=us&hq=hospitals&hnear=Phoenix,+AZ&ei=v_0STc_tEsPflgfb2ZGkDA&sa=X&oi=local_group&ct=image&resnum=3&ved=0CAYQtgMwAg

  • Klaire

    Same old same old on another “dancing with words.” It’s also especially disappointing coming out of Commonwheel, which, albeit left-leaning, usually gets it right when it comes to life.

    To pretend that this was not an abortion is to pretend it wasn’t a pregnancy, period! I guess the “no label” lefties got to CW.

    In Christ love there are no words, just actions.

    God bless especially those on the (semantic) dance floor, for a special grace to realize that this dance around words is not a dance of the God of Love, the same God we all stand in judgment with, alone and without the music.

  • Klaire

    In Christ love there are no words, just actions.

    For clarity, meant to convey ” no words independent of actions.”

  • Eugene Pagano

    Some of the commenters have put in their two cents without following your directions to read the rest and the links. The Commonweal blog entry, quoting Prof. Lysaught, described the more severe symptoms:

    “A cardiac catheterization revealed that the woman now had “very severe pulmonary arterial hypertension with profoundly reduced cardiac output”; in another part of the record, a different physician confirmed “severe, life-threatening pulmonary hypertension,” “right heart failure,” and “cardiogenic shock.” The chart noted that she had been informed that her risk of mortality “approaches 100%,” is “near 100%,” and is “close to 100%” if she were to continue the pregnancy. The chart also noted that “surgery is absolutely contraindicated.”

    “As Lysaught makes clear, the pregnancy itself exacerbated her symptoms. Owing to physiological changes accompanying pregnancy, the mother’s heart could no longer supply enough oxygenated blood to sustain her organs–or the fetus. “In short,” Lysaught writes,

    “in spite of the best efforts of the mother and of her medical staff, the fetus had become terminal, not because of a pathology of its own but because of a pathology in its maternal environment. There was no longer any chance that the life of this child could be saved. This is crucial to note insofar as it establishes that at the point of decision, it was not a case of saving the mother or the child. It was not a matter of choosing one life or the other. The child’s life, because of natural causes, was in the process of ending.”

    End of quotation.

    The choice was between saving the mother and saving neither mother nor baby. There is something wrong with a position that says it is better to have two people die rather than one.

    When I comment on Roman Catholic blogs, I disclose that I have left the RC Church. I cannot imagine returning to it as long as it has leaders who confuse God with Moloch and think that He demands human sacrifice.

  • Klaire

    Eugene, you left out one choice, that of God’s.

    How do you know God wasn’t calling a martyr?

    You clearly don’t have an understanding of the Catholic Faith, the one that you probably “think” you knew when you left.

    How profound that you exchange the true demonic God of Moloch, and the truly human sacrifice of abortion, with a thwart of God’s will.

    Despite this being a very difficult case medically, I have since done research and found cases where the mothers did survive.

    Imagine had this mother survived? I wonder how much ink that would have gotten?

    I suggest the next time you give your RC disclosure, to include the fact that you truly had no concept of the crux of Catholicism, the cross.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    This is a teachable moment for the Church. Perhaps Bishop Olmsted can seize the opportunity to meet with the woman who had the procedure, along with her four children and husband and — after discussing the medical evidence showing that her risk of death was close to 100% — explain in a caring, pastoral and lucid way why it would be better if she had died.

    I think many of the faithful would benefit from hearing this explained, as well. Because, on the face of it, a lot of people just find this train of thought — no matter how doctrinally sound it may be — incomprehensible.

  • Klaire

    Great suggestion Dcn. Greg. Imagine THAT headline. Everyone who can read English would probably read it.

    On that note, you , Elizabeth Scalia, or one of the other great Catholic authors on Patheos, would also do an excellent job of it. Of course, the greatest weight would certainly come from the Bishop O, but there would still be much value to an original article from Patheos.

  • HMS

    Re:

    “Despite this being a very difficult case medically, I have since done research and found cases where the mothers did survive.” (Klaire)

    I am interested in seeing your research. Can you cite it? Did those mothers have a medical prognosis – risk of death nearly 100%?

  • Dev Thakur

    This idea of considering whether one or two people die is crazy. (From a Catholic p.o.v. at least).

    That is never the question. Guess what? EVERYBODY dies. Always. We all die.

    The question is this: when can we kill an innocent human being?

    And the answer is: never.

    __

    Deacon, you suggest His Excellency explain to the woman in question why it would be “better” if she had died. But no one thinks that! I’d like you to explain, rather, how a Catholic can accept killing an innocent human being, no matter what the motivation. It’s against the natural law and the fifth commandment.

    I suspect the only reason any Catholic considers entertaining the possibility of abortion is because the child is not born yet and it’s easy (though wrong) to deny his humanity.

  • http://themightyambivalentcatholic.blogspot.com/ Steve

    Dev Thakur, it isn’t tough to come up with an analogy that might put the doctors’ dilemma in a clearer light. I’ve done my best to frame such an analogy in a letter I mailed to Bishop Olmsted this morning. I’ve also posted the letter–with that analogy–on my blog this morning. (If you click on my name above this comment, you’ll find a link to my blog.)

  • Daniel

    “Deacon, you suggest His Excellency explain to the woman in question why it would be “better” if she had died. But no one thinks that! I’d like you to explain, rather, how a Catholic can accept killing an innocent human being, no matter what the motivation. It’s against the natural law and the fifth commandment. ”

    However, as the report from the moral theologian outlines, the unborn child was dying, and nothing could be done to save him/her. Thus the doctors were faced with the question of allowing both the mother and the unborn child to die, depriving four living children of their mother, or to do what was needed to save the life of the mother and allow the unborn child to pass on.

    And clearly from your statement you believe it would have been better, in a moral sense, that the doctors allow the woman to die rather than save her life.

  • Daniel

    To those of you condemning the doctors for saving this woman’s life, I put the following to you.

    On 9/11 a handful of passengers in an airplane wrested control of that plane from a group of hijackers who were intent on flying it into a government building, perhaps killing hundreds of people in that building in addition to the hundreds on the plane. In taking control of the plane these passengers then drove that plane into the ground, killing all on board, including innocent passengers, both adult and children.

    Under Catholic teaching, did those passengers sin in taking control of the flight and killing all those on board to save those on the ground? Why or why not?

  • wineinthewater

    I would hope to never be in this woman’s place (or more properly, her husbands). She has my prayers. She was in a horrible situation and I bet all this coverage has only prolonged her horror. I pray that she seeks and accepts the Grace that she needs.

    “in spite of the best efforts of the mother and of her medical staff, the fetus had become terminal”

    What a play with words. “Terminal” sounds like dead, but this moral theologian only means dying. But she wants the reader to base their response on “dead.”

    I find this chilling. It says degrades the life of the dying. It says that if you are dying, or at least appear to be dying, that your life has less value. It says that the dying are not to be afforded the same human dignity or human rights as those who are not dying.

    Beyond that, I have to say that I have serious doubts about the prognosis. Doctors lie to their patients, especially their pregnant patients. They lie about the risks, they lie about the potential complications, they lie about the benefits. The information they give their patients is not meant to inform, but to coerce the patient into the course of action the doctor wants to take. My wife and I went through it over and over again with our first child (the .02% chance that our daughter would have Down’s was a big enough risk to merit abortion, but the 1-3% risk of a miscarriage from amniocentesis was nothing to worry about, the sub 1% risk of mortality from a breech delivery was “so close to certain” that they would not even try a vaginal birth) and many of our friends and acquaintances have gone through the same. Sure, this does not apply to all doctors, but we have seen it enough to conclude that it is far from uncommon.

    To say that it is more moral to trust in the judgment of doctors and kill a child to secure an end than it is to trust in God, at least try to save both lives and exclude all evil means is a morality that I want no part of.

  • rick

    If this was not an abortion because the baby was dying but not yet dead, this was a case of euthanasia. That justifies it in the eyes of the Church!

  • Dev Thakur

    “And clearly from your statement you believe it would have been better, in a moral sense, that the doctors allow the woman to die rather than save her life.”

    That’s a false choice. They should do everything they can to save her. Killing an innocent baby is simply not one of the things they can morally do.

    When you write “save her life” you conveniently leave out “by killing the innocent unborn child.” When you write “allow the woman to die” I would instead write “do what is morally possibly in order to save her life.”

  • Daniel

    Dev Thakur: “That’s a false choice. They should do everything they can to save her. Killing an innocent baby is simply not one of the things they can morally do.”

    Then in this case what you are saying is that the moral thing to do would have been to allow both to die, or to allow the unborn child to kill the mother.

  • Mike L

    I am not completely convinced that anyone who is causing the death of another, either on purpose on not, can be called totally innocent. But that is a matter for moral theologians and those that have talked to God and absolutely know His will. I do not fit in either category.

    But I do wonder at what will result from removing the status of “Catholic” from St Josephs Hospital. As far as I have heard it will have no effect on the hospital itself, except perhaps to relieve pressure not to perform procedures that are not approved by the Church. I am not convinced that this is a good thing.

    As far as I can see, its main effect will be to remove the Real Presence from the Hospital and prevent mass from being said their. The prohibition against mass will mostly effect those ambulatory patients that would have liked to receive the sacraments, and will not be able to. Recently my wife had emergency surgery late Saturday night, and I opted to spend Sunday with her rather than go to mass. In discusing this with my confessor he told me that it was not a sin under these circumstances, and mentioned that I might have been able to attend mass at the hospital. Of course this will no longer be an option at St. Joseph’s.

    It also means that both patients and those grieving their sickness will not be able to find consolation in the Real Presence of Christ. While I would find this a real loss, perhaps it is just further evidence that people, including clergy no longer believe in the Real Presence and so it doesn’t much matter.

    In the end, my take is that the bishop does not believe in the idea that the Church itself is a hospital for sinners, and the presence of Christ is only for those who do not sin. Possibly a very popular idea these days.

    Hugs,

    Mike L

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/deaconsbench foxfan6

    Deacon Greg wrote:
    “This is a teachable moment for the Church. Perhaps Bishop Olmsted can seize the opportunity to meet with the woman who had the procedure, along with her four children and husband and — after discussing the medical evidence showing that her risk of death was close to 100% — explain in a caring, pastoral and lucid way why it would be better if she had died.”
    “I think many of the faithful would benefit from hearing this explained, as well. Because, on the face of it, a lot of people just find this train of thought — no matter how doctrinally sound it may be — incomprehensible.”

    Hey Kandra: What you have written here could easily be viewed as a criticism of Bishop Olmsted and his decision. I would be very careful about responses such as this one that you added to your blog. You come across here as being sympathetic to the hospital’s position in all this and critical of Bishop Olmsted’s position. You haven’t done nearly enough research in this matter to have formed that kind of an opinion, and as a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, (assuming you really are one, since none of us really has any proof of that other than your saying so) you should certainly know better than to appear to be taking the pro-choice side of things. One could easily read your response and interpret it as having sympathies for the hospital’s position and a condemnation of the Bishop; thereby scandalizing some who read it.

  • HMS

    Re foxfan6 who wrote above:

    …”as a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, (assuming you really are one, since none of us really has any proof of that other than your saying so)… .

    It is one thing to disagree with the opinion of a blog poster and another to question the person’s credibility.

    Deacon Greg’s credentials can easily be verified on the parish website where he ministers as deacon (Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, Forest Hills) and in the several articles he has written on the diaconate in America Magazine.

    Please be fair and balanced.


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