Catholic Hospital System Says It Can Deny Women Emergency Care on Religious Grounds

The blog Eclecta reports on a lawsuit that highlights several disturbing cases of Catholic hospitals putting ideology above patient safety:

When you show up at an emergency room in need of urgent medical care, you have a reasonable expectation that you’ll be given the treatment you need — that the staff will do everything they can to save your life and protect your health. In fact, ERs are required by law not to turn anyone away for any reason.

Unless you’re a Catholic-affiliated health system. At least, that’s what one Catholic hospital system would like you to think, even though they’re dead wrong.

Keep reading here.

Ban Homeopathy on the NHS Because there is ‘No Evidence It Works’, Ministers Say

As reported in today’s Daily Mail:

The National Health Service (NHS) could ban homeopathy on prescription, ministers announced today.

It is thought the health service spends £4m a year on the controversial alternative treatment – and there are homeopathic hospitals and GPs around the country.

But Life Sciences Minister George Freeman said today that cash should only be spent on the most effective medicines.

You can read the full article here.

200-Year-Old Homeopathy “Cures” May Face Modern Medical Testing

After decades of non-regulation, federal agencies are finally taking a closer at homeopathy,reports BuzzFeed’s Dan Vergano:

The FDA is taking aim at homeopathic remedies — pills and preparations sold over-the-counter that claim to cure diseases with tiny doses of stuff that makes people sick.

But that may change. This month, both the FDA, which oversees drug safety, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which oversees drug ads, will end lengthy public comment periods that followed hearings on homeopathy. The FTC smacked its sister drug-safety agency in public comments in August, calling for the FDA to crack down on homeopathic products, which “may harm consumers.”

The Center for Inquiry has already filed comments with the FDA; they can be read here,

The article goes on to quote CFI’s Michael De Dora:

In 1938, before the advent of modern drug testing, the U.S. Congress added homeopathic remedies to the list of legal drugs nationwide. Homeopathy largely faded from medicine thereafter, dispensed in minute quantities from the cabinets of homeopathic doctors. That changed in 1988, when U.S. drug laws changed to allow these products on pharmacy shelves without a prescription, and without the efficacy evidence needed to sell other drugs. The same laws exempt homeopathic drugs from limits on alcohol, according to the FDA.

Regardless, a resurgence of interest in “natural” medical cures spurred the growth of a homeopathic remedy industry, Michael De Dora of the Center for Inquiry, a junk science watchdog group based in Washington, D.C., told BuzzFeed News.

By 2007, the CDC estimated that Americans were spending $34 billion a year on alternative medicine and doctor visits, including homeopathic products. The American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists takes issue with market surveys that suggest homeopathic drug sales are around $6.4 billion yearly, instead claiming they are closer to $1 billion.

In any case, it’s a lot of money. “Especially with big box stores stocking homeopathic products on their shelves, the market has grown,” De Dora said. “They are on the shelves next to real medicine, they look like real medicine, and there is a lot evidence that people don’t know what they are buying.”

You can read the full article here.

City Settles Suit With Catholic Pediatrician Over Birth Control

As reported in Philly Mag:

The City of Philadelphia has reached a settlement with a Catholic pediatrician who was fired after she refused to prescribe birth control options like Depo-Provera and the morning-after pill to the young women in her care, and part of that settlement includes the implementation of a policy that precludes the city from forcing healthcare workers to provide care that goes against their religious beliefs. 

Keep reading here.

California Governor Vetoes “Right to Try” Bill That Would Let Profiteers Prey on Terminally Ill

This week, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill, AB 159, that would have allowed terminally ill patients to access experimental treatments that have not yet been approved by the FDA.

Although advocated for as allowing freedom and choice for individuals facing , so-called “right to try” bills allow patients access to dangerous drugs whose safety is not yet proven, and clear the way for profiteers and alternative medicine practitioners to wring money—often hundreds of thousands of dollars—out of the dying and their desperate families, all without any legal protection.

From the San Jose Mercury News:

“Patients with life threatening conditions should be able to try experimental drugs, and the United States Food and Drug Administration’s compassionate use program allows this to happen,” Brown wrote in a signing message to lawmakers. “Before authorizing an alternative state pathway, we should give this federal expedited process a chance to work.”


“The bill was opposed by the Association of Northern California Oncologists, who warned that providing unregulated treatments for people desperately trying to extend their lives takes advantage of their frailty.”

Lamenting the “cruel sham” that is “right to try” legislation, surgical oncologist David Gorski details the misunderstandings that sustain them:

Basically, right-to-try laws all follow the same template provided by a libertarian think tank, the Goldwater Institute. The idea is to make it easier for terminally ill patients to access experimental drugs and devices. The requirements are risibly low and betray a total lack of understanding of how drug development works in that they only require that the experimental drug (1) have passed phase I trials and (2) still be in clinical trials. Of course, phase I trials are not designed to test efficacy. Their purpose is to work out optimal dosage, identify the maximal tolerated dose, and identify major side effects. Worse, they usually only consist of a few tens of patients, often less than 30. To propose letting seriously ill patients drugs that have been tested in so few people and not demonstrated to be efficacious and safe is to invite disaster. In addition, they provide no financial support for patients, who are basically on their own when it comes to paying what can be the substantial financial charges. In addition, right-to-try laws strip away patient protections, making it virtually impossible for a patient injured using such a drug to sue either the drug company or the physician administering the drug. That’s even leaving aside the fact that drug approval is controlled by the federal government, and drug companies will be highly reluctant to offer such drugs without the approval of the FDA, and the FDA already has programs for single patient INDs, also known as compassionate use, to allow patients access to experimental drugs.

Over the last year and a half, state legislature after state legislature, believing, based on the dishonest propaganda of advocates who claim that the FDA is killing people and the Goldwater Institute cynically featuring the sympathetic stories of dying patients (particularly those with Lou Gehrig’s disease) to advance its agenda, has fallen under the spell of right-to-try. It passed in Michigan last year, sneakily pushed through the legislature. Over the last year, state after statepassed these ill-advised laws. Not surprisingly, several months ago and more than a year after the first of these laws passed, right-to-try advocates couldn’t point to a single patient helped by these laws, and even patients were starting to realize that they’ve been sold a bill of goods in the name of an antiregulatory fervor to weaken the FDA, which was the real reason all along for these laws. The Goldwater Institute just used terminally ill patients to lobby state legislatures, that and the fact that most people don’t understand drug development and think that the arguments for right-to-try sound reasonable because of it. It’s no wonder that patients feel betrayed and disappointed. Right-to-try laws, by their very design, create false expectation and false hope.

Because of the widespread misunderstanding of drug approval (specifically the primacy of the FDA over any state law) and the lack of attention paid to the patient-hostile provisions of the Goldwater Institute template for right-to-try laws that strip away legal protections and greatly weaken the right to legal recourse in the case of harm, these laws have passed 24 states. California would have been the 25th.


In actuality, given the small proportion of drugs that make it successfully through the whole regulatory process after phase I, patients with terminal illnesses are far more likely to be harmed then helped by releasing experimental drugs that have only passed phase I trials. The frequent retort is that these patients are terminally ill and things can’t get worse, but there is something worse than being terminally ill. It’s being terminally ill and exhausting the last of your finances and even going into debt. It’s being terminally ill and harming yourself so that your are less able to do what you want to do in your short remaining time. It’s being terminally ill and dying sooner than you have to.

Read his full post here.



Faith-healing Oregon Parents Have Manslaughter Conviction Upheld

An Oregon couple who refused to take their premature newborn to a hospital, and instead prayed over him as he died, have had their manslaughter conviction upheld by the Oregon Supreme Court.

From the New York Daily News:

In their failed plea to the Oregon Supreme Court, the Hickmans claimed that the state had the burden to prove the couple knew their religious beliefs would cause the death of their child.

The state Supreme Court’s decision recounted the minimal steps the Hickmans took to try to save the baby. If they had taken David to a hospital, there is a 99 percent chance he would have survived, a doctor testified at the trial.

“Dale ran into the room where one of his aunts was holding David and anointed David’s head with olive oil and began to pray,” the Oct. 8 state Supreme Court decision read. “He noticed that David was taking short breaths, was minimally responsive, and was lighter in color, so he took David into the bedroom where Shannon still lay. At that point, it was ‘in the back of [DALE’S] mind’ that David would not survive. He sat in a chair by the bed, held David in his arms, and prayed.”

The main cause of David’s death was staphylococcus pneumonia, the coroner said.

During the trial, both parents testified that “they would not have done anything differently.”

Read the full article here.

California Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Physician-Assisted Dying

We have some breaking news to share from Patrick McGreevy of the Los Angeles Times:

Caught between conflicting moral arguments, Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminary student, on Monday signed a measure allowing physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients who want to hasten their deaths.

Approving the bill, whose opponents included the Catholic Church, appeared to be a gut-wrenching decision for the 77-year-old governor, who as a young man studied to enter the priesthood.

In considering it, Brown said he had to “reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death.”

California becomes the fifth state to allow so-called assisted suicide, following Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont.

You can read Gov. Brown’s signing statement here.

California: Tell Gov. Brown to Sign Bill Legalizing Patient Choice at End of Life

An action alert from the Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy:

The California legislature has just approved a bill that would legalize physician-assisted dying, and the Center for Inquiry (CFI) urges you to contact Gov. Jerry Brown right now and urge him to sign this measure into law. 

Senate Bill 128, the End of Life Option Act, would authorize “an adult who meets certain qualifications, and who has been determined by his or her attending physician to be suffering from a terminal illness, as defined, to make a request for medication prescribed pursuant to these provisions for the purpose of ending his or her life.” The bill would also establish procedures for making these requests.

Many people who are terminally ill want the option of meeting their death on their own terms, so that they can spare themselves and their families needless suffering. CFI firmly believes competent, terminally ill patients have a right to determine whether to prolong their life or hasten their death. Accordingly, CFI strongly supports legislation that authorizes physician-assisted dying.

However, adamant and well-financed opposition from religious institutions — especially the Catholic Church — has frustrated such efforts. We believe that at the end of a person’s life, no one else’s religious views should affect their medical care, including how or when they choose to die. Our lives don’t belong to any church, politician, or cultural tradition. Our lives are our own.

Five states have already authorized physician-assisted dying: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, and New Mexico. With your help, California could become the next.

You can take action here.

Legal case tests religious hospitals’ right to deny procedures

As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Rachel Miller, due to have her second child in late September, agreed with her husband that this would be her last pregnancy and decided she would be sterilized by tubal ligation after giving birth. But her hospital in Redding, owned by Dignity Health in San Francisco, refused to allow her doctor to perform the procedure, saying tubal ligation violates the ethical principles of Catholic health care facilities.

Now Miller’s case could become the springboard for a legal attack on barriers to reproductive procedures — other than abortions — at Catholic hospitals in California, whose numbers are steadily increasing.

“Hospitals that are open to the general public and that receive state money shouldn’t be able to use religion to discriminate or to deny important health care,” said Elizabeth Gill, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who represents Miller. She said the hospital receives state Medi-Cal funds as well as federal funding from both Medi-Cal and Medicare.

In an Aug. 17 letter to Mercy Medical Center in Redding, Gill said the ACLU would go to court unless the hospital reversed course and authorized the sterilization procedure. By denying “pregnancy-related care” to Miller, Gill wrote, the hospital is discriminating on the basis of sex, as defined by California law, and is also allowing “your corporate entity’s religious beliefs” to override a doctor’s medical decision, violating a state law against the corporate practice of medicine.

You can keep reading here.

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