Don’t Subject Non-Religious Hospital Patients to Catholic Principles

Target: Governor Jay Inslee & Attorney General Bob Ferguson

Goal: Do not allow Catholic hospitals to subject public hospitals to their own theological beliefs called the ‘Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Heath Care Services’ after affiliations or mergers.

An alarming trend is taking shape in Washington State’s healthcare field. Due to all of the changes in the healthcare industry, many public hospitals and doctors’ offices are searching for funding, and finding it in a dangerous place: healthcare corporations run by the Catholic church. Mergers are being made between public and Catholic healthcare enterprises, and their effects could be powerful.

If all currently proposed mergers succeed, at the end of this year a total of 45% of all Washington hospital beds will be religiously affiliated. The medical decisions of unsuspecting patients all over Washington State will be subject to the Catholic church’s Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs) outlined by Catholic Bishops. Before, medical decisions were mandated by state law – but after a secular hospital or doctors office mergers with a Catholic-run corporation, state law flies out the window and in come the ERDs.

Washington’s Death with Dignity Act passed back in 2008, giving terminally ill patients the right to end their lives with the help of a doctor in order to save them prolonged pain and suffering. Could a patient in a Catholic hospital invoke their rights to this law? Of course not. That is explicitly against the church’s ERDs. What about a life-saving abortion, something that has been legal in Washington since 1991? Hope you didn’t walk into a Catholic-owned hospital! Would you like to sterilize yourself after giving birth, or place a long-lasting form of birth control, such as an IUD after giving birth? If you’re in a Catholic hospital, you can’t.

Many Catholic hospitals are obviously faith-based, but now that so many mergers are taking place, the water is getting very murky. As a result, non-Catholics are seeking care in facilities that they may not know are administered by Catholic corporations. These patients may not find out until it’s too late, and certain necessary medical options are not available to them. They should not have to be forced to follow the church’s ERDs because they accidentally chose a Catholic hospital in a very liberal state.

At times, organizations have attempted to say they are beginning an “affiliation” instead of merging, or claim that they will remain legally separate and independent, but slowly the changes creep in. Swedish Medical Center claimed they were only creating an affiliation with Catholic-run Providence Health & Services last year. However, after the affiliation, the medical center stopped doing elective abortions and shut-down its hospice service. This is an alarming effect that  Catholic ERDs had, and it won’t stop there. A direct quote from the Catholic Bishops clearly states, “The U.S. Bishops’ directives also say that any partnership that affects the mission or religious and ethical identity of Catholic health care must respect church teaching and discipline, and that local bishops and church authorities should be involved to work out details of the arrangements.” This clearly shows every intent to make sure all healthcare entities they touch are following their own religious principals.

If the Catholics are going to fight so that their values be followed, the Governor and state Attorney General must fight to ensure that the will of the people be heard, and Washington’s laws are abided by in Washington State hospitals.  Catholic-run organizations can’t be allowed to circumvent state law in order to impose their own religious beliefs.


Dear Governor Jay Inslee & Attorney General Bob Ferguson,

Due to changes in the healthcare industry, publicly funded hospitals are seeking affiliations and mergers from well-funded Catholic healthcare organizations in large numbers. It is estimated that by the end of this year, 45% of hospital beds in Washington State will be religiously affiliated. When a Catholic organization affiliates with a state-run one, Catholic officials insist that their own Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services (EDRs) be met without question, even though these directives at times directly clash with state law. As a result, Washington residents who do not identify as Catholic, are limited in their treatment options to what is allowed underneath EDRs. This practice cannot be allowed.

The Catholic Church’s EDRs directly ban medical practices that are legal under state law. For example, Washington’s Death with Dignity Act passed in 2008, that gives residents the right to end their life with the help of a physician if they are suffering and terminally ill. Also, Washington law requires that women have the right to an abortion since 1991, especially if their own life is in danger, but this is not allowed by Catholic-run hospitals or organizations.

Legislation needs to be created that directly states that any affiliation or merger with a Catholic-run medical organization does not require the state-funded hospital to then follow Catholic EDRs. This is a clear violation of church and state, and these practices need to be put to a stop. The Catholic Bishops should not be allowed to influence public-run healthcare because they are financially connected to these institutions. Mergers between the two institutions need to be rejected completely, or done strictly stating the directives of the hospital are governed by state law, and state law only.


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