Religion, Hospitals and the Public Good

Church & State, October 2000 | Go to article overview

Religion, Hospitals and the Public Good


Public hospitals are frequently relied on to provide medical care for entire communities. In light of these facilities' responsibilities, there's simply no reason for a municipal hospital, on public property, supported directly and indirectly with public funds, to deny certain services because they fail to conform to the guidelines of a specific religious denomination.

Yet that's exactly what is occurring at one Florida hospital.

In St. Petersburg, a public medical facility has been operated by Bayfront Medical Center since 1968. Medical services changed dramatically in 1997 after Bayfront entered into an alliance with several other facilities in the Tampa area, including religiously run hospitals. As a result, the facility now operates under the "Ethical and Religious Directives" of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a nation committed to the separation of church and state, this represents a serious problem.

Medical decisions at Bayfront were once based on a patient's needs and doctors' advice. Now religious dictates are being used to limit these options.

Burdens have already begun. Hospital employees have been given a statement to sign that says they will follow the Catholic bishops' guidelines. …

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