After much self-examination and reflection as a mental healthcare provider of Educational Therapy, I have moved to a position of full patient and full family autonomy. In layman’s terms, this is patient and doctor choice for those over 18 and family, patient, and doctor choice for children under 18. This doesn’t mean that I like abortion, but I do support comprehensive supports which have been proven over time to reduce the abortion rate. However, I think it is unethical to force a woman to give birth against her will or remove healthcare which has been scientifically-proven to save the lives of some, such as access to gender-affirming care for some transgender people.
63% of Catholics in this nation believe in patient and family autonomy like I do, especially Catholic healthcare and mental health providers who work outside Catholic entities. The Magisterial Teaching of the Church does not require the laity to surrender their conscience and lives to the hierarchy when vulnerable peoples’ lives and health are in danger, and this includes vulnerable lives outside the womb. I know that my faith, personhood, and potentially life will be attacked and even threatened by some in the Catholic Right for me believing in full patient and family autonomy. I will share the ethical reasons here and why I support this because of my faith, not in spite of it.
1. Patient and parent autonomy are listed as key ethics within my professional organizations and professional practice.
2. When Church hierarchy and/or government gets between a patient and the doctor, it can potentially and many times endanger the lives and well-being of the patient and even the parents who care for the patient. When Bishops make anti-science medical decisions for patients in Catholic hospitals which place the lives and well-being of patients in danger, this is a serious problem. I believe that medical decisions must be left up to healthcare providers and their families within the Catholic hospitals and in other medical facilities. I am very grateful for all Catholic hospitals and charities.
3. I have now personally witnessed one-too-many examples of a patient’s life being endangered because the government and/or Church came between the patient and the doctor, especially within the last three years when more draconian measures were taken against healthcare, such as criminalizing abortion. This anti-abortion extremist at all-costs mindset only represents a small percentage of the entire Catholic Church, but it is a very powerful percentage.
4. Many times, the patients who are most vulnerable are those who fall into historically marginalized and oppressed groups such as racial minorities, disabled people, LGBTQIA+ people, etc……
5. Over the last five years, two of my children and I have personally been on the receiving end of three different clergymen at three different times trying to knowingly force Church doctrine against doctors’ orders and science with no care about the health, lives, and well-being of my family and even my patients, such as not respecting my decision to get the vaccine. I made the decision to become fully-vaccinated on behalf of my family, children I serve, and my own health. These three clergymen are not like most clergymen who indeed care about families of all kinds.
Therefore, I vow in my professional practice to not endanger the lives and well-being of those I serve in any way. How do I justify this spiritually and morally as a Catholic? I align with Catholic Social Teaching, place the lives and human dignity of others first, align with science, and align with the Code of Ethics in my professional practice. This doesn’t mean that I like abortion or that I would suggest an abortion because this is not my field. This means that I ethically believe that ALL medical and mental health decisions are ultimately between patients, parents of those under 18, and doctors only. The medical decisions of others are ultimately not anyone else’s business or decision.