Report calls patient care at religious-based institutions 'largely unpredictable,' 'compromised'

On the heels of news that a nun in Phoenix was reprimanded, reassigned and excommunicated for allowing a life-saving abortion comes word from the National Health Law Program that one out of every six Americans is seen at a hospital restricting abortion and other kinds of contraceptive procedures because of religious beliefs.

In the report "Health Care Refusals: Undermining Quality Care for Women," lead author Susan Berke Fogel argues that refusal clauses need to be reexamined and evaluated according to measures, not based on religion or ideology, but rather ones that are evidence-based, patient-centered and that focus on prevention. 

"Healthcare refusals and denials of care are proliferating in the U.S., based on ideological and political justifications that have nothing to do with scientific evidence, good medical practice, or patient needs," writes Fogel. "These refusals and denials of care should be scrutinized to assess their impact on quality health care and redressed when they fall below the standard of care."

Nearly 15 percent of hospital beds in the U.S., are controlled by Catholic health systems, according to the report, as are 20 percent of hospital admissions in 20 states. Fogel points out that because such institutions aren't required to inform patients of their stance on various procedures, patients and communities suffer.

"Patient care in religiously-based institutions...is largely unpredictable and is ultimately compromised when neither patients nor communities have accurate information about available services and access to medical interventions according to the standards of care," Fogel writes. 

Fogel also says that providers that deny care based on "personal and religious beliefs rather than scientific evidence" disrupt the informed consent process that helps patients make voluntary decisions about various procedures and interventions. 

"The patient's needs and preferences are made invisible, and she may lack the information necessary to make informed decisions," Fogel writes.

For more information:
- read this Los Angeles Times blog post
- here's the full report

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