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Harrington: Stricter Ethical and Religious Directives for Healthcare may be coming

The Catholic bishops here in the U.S. are meeting this month to decide whether to update the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care.

The last time the bishops updated the directives (in 2009), it was to make clear that feeding tubes were required for patients in persistent, vegetative comas, despite any advance directives to the contrary. The impetus for that update was the Terri Schiavo case, in which a woman was kept on a feeding tube for several years against the wishes of her husband, who said such care violated her wishes.

This time, the office of the Doctrine of the Faith is behind the newest ERD update. The Doctrine of the Faith is the arm of the Catholic Church most concerned with enforcing traditional Catholic doctrine. Expectations are that this will have a negative impact on the many "partnerships" and takeovers that have happened here in WA State.

ProPublica has a good overview here: www.propublica.org/article/catholic-bishops-weigh-tightening-rules-for-health-care-partnerships?

Related to all of this, the levy that supports PeaceHealth may be up for a vote in 2015. I encourage everyone to start asking questions now and to stay informed as things progress.

It's my belief that a levy to support health care should come with ongoing, effective oversight of the entity that is delivering that care. From public comments made by various hospital district commissioners, it's difficult to see what oversight authority, if any, they have or are willing to exercise over PeaceHealth.

In my view, PeaceHealth, which negotiated a very tough long-term contract, needs to be held to account for denying care to pregnant women and forbidding physicians to provide referrals or support for patients who want to exercise their rights under WA's Death with Dignity laws. If the hospital district commissioners are unwilling or unable to hold PeaceHealth to account, hopefully voters will.

There are many activities (legal, legislative, and policy) underway to help secure patient rights here in WA State; islanders have an important voice in that process.

Monica Harrington