Catholic hospital denies woman surgery on religious grounds

jessica and james mann
Jessica and James Mann

Weeks after learning she would give birth to her third child, Jessica Mann was faced with a difficult decision: because she was stricken by a life-threatening brain tumor, her doctor recommended she have her fallopian tubes tied at the time of her scheduled cesarean section delivery, later this month.

Mann agreed to undergo the procedure at her hospital to prevent the risk of a future pregnancy exacerbating her tumor. But the hospital, Genesys Regional Medical Center in Grand Blanc, Michigan, declined on religious grounds.

The case is part of a trend that some experts are calling a burgeoning public health crisis, as a greater proportion of patients rely on religious hospitals for medical care.

Genesys’s denial stems from a religious directive crafted by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which governs every Catholic-sponsored hospital in the nation.

The set of rules, called the Ethical and Religious Directives, prohibits the facilities from performing procedures like tubal ligations…

Although Genesys had indicated it would permit exceptions for tubal ligations that were intended to cure a serious medical condition, the hospital denied Mann’s request, over the objections of her doctors. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan intervened last month and asked Genesys twice to reconsider. The hospital, however, remained defiant, citing its adherence to the religious directives.

On Wednesday, the ACLU filed a complaint on behalf of Mann with the Michigan department of licensing and regulatory affairs, requesting an investigation of the situation. The department has the authority to revoke the hospital’s license, or impose an administrative fine…

While federal law provides an exemption for hospitals who don’t want to provide abortions or sterilizations, there doesn’t appear to be any ground under federal law for a Catholic hospital to resist Michigan’s regulatory authority, Sepper said. Michigan has a so-called conscience clause for hospitals but it only applies to abortions.

The ACLU has also said federal law doesn’t apply, as Michigan statute entitles Mann to “adequate and appropriate care”, unless a physician says there is a medically appropriate reason not to perform a procedure.

A predictable result from a White House too candyass to support existing standards of separation between state and church – and a Congress all too willing and opportunist to pander to fundamentalist beliefs over secular standards.

Contemptible and contributing to lousy healthcare – most often to women. Not enough discussion IMHO about religions continuing a War on Women that is centuries-old. The Republican Party is just chiming in in recent decades as a reflection of their changing demographic, regressive standards.

Scientists who pee plutonium


A ring of refined plutonium

There is a club among atomic scientists who have worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Known as UPPU, it’s a strange, informal organization that began in 1951 and includes scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project and brought nuclear weapons to the world.

It’s a small club, and only 26 people had joined as of the mid-1990s. Membership isn’t easy to obtain, and there are few benefits. First, an applicant must expose themselves to a high dose of plutonium, then they must volunteer to allow the U.S. government to monitor their health for the rest of their lives.

How much plutonium in the body does it take to join the club? Enough so that it comes out in your urine. The members of the UPPU club pee plutonium … and some of them ship it back to the government for study…

The members of the UPPU club are some of the most studied cases of plutonium poisoning in the world. Which is important. Many news stories about the substance focus on its toxicity and danger. Both scientists and journalists have sparred over the past half-century about the potential dangers.

It may be a surprise to learn that the members of the UPPU club have all done well, especially when compared to national averages.

“They’ve fared pretty well as a group,” George Volez and expert on plutonium exposure told Los Alamos Science in 1995. “Of the original 26, only seven have died, and the last death was in 1990.” Since the publication of this interview, more of the original 26 have died, including both Magel and Dallas in 2008 and 2007, respectively.

“One was a lung-cancer death, and two died of other causes but had lung cancer at the time of death. All three were heavy smokers. In fact, 17 of the original 26 were smokers at the time,” Volez continued. Others died due to heart disease, some to car accidents. But overall, “the mortality rate for the group is about 50 per cent lower than the national average.”

But Volez was quick to point out “that doesn’t mean that plutonium isn’t very hazardous. It is.”

RTFA for individual stories, how scientists and techs acquired the plutonium in their bodies.

I can more than sympathize. I get a note or a phone call every decade from folks “just checking in…”. I worked in a research lab in the 1950’s previously used by the company to produce some of the first zirconium-clad fuel rods for nuclear power plants. We were told they did an exceptional job of cleanup – and apparently they did.

I forget about that part of the job, nowadays. I’d rather recall a couple of the amazing scientists I worked with.

Kunduz hospital patients ‘burned in beds” … Uncle Sugar says “Oops”


Click to enlarge

Dr Joanne Liu’s words last Wednesday were every bit as blunt as one would expect from the head of an organisation known for its outspokenness on humanitarian issues, a realm where tongues – and noses – are often held in the service of the suffering.

“If we let this go, as if it was a non-event, we are basically giving a blank cheque to any countries who are at war,” she said of US airstrikes on the Médecins sans Frontières hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz, which killed at least 22 people.

“Our patients burned in their beds; MSF doctors, nurses, and other staff were killed as they worked. Our colleagues had to operate on each other.”

If hospitals were not safeguarded, asked Liu in a speech delivered at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, how could the medical charity work in other conflicts in Syria, South Sudan and Yemen? After all, she added, “even wars have rules”.

MSF’s assertion that the US military committed a war crime in Kunduz and its call for an independent inquiry under the Geneva conventions have not only pitted it against the Pentagon, they have also served to confirm – once again – the medical charity’s reputation for monumental frankness…

The organisation was founded after a group of French doctors who had volunteered with the International Committee of the Red Cross during the Biafran crisis decided that they could not stay silent about the slaughter and hunger they had seen in the breakaway Nigerian province.

Feeling constrained by the ICRC’s way of operating and the abuses perpetrated by the Nigerian army, they joined forces with a pair of journalists to launch an organisation that would “ignore political or religious boundaries and prioritise the welfare of those suffering” – hence Médecins sans Frontières…

In order to guarantee its independence and safeguard its right to speak out, MSF ensures that the overwhelming majority of its funding – 89% – comes from individual donors.

The rest comes from governments and international organisations. In multi-party conflicts where humanitarian assistance is threatened, it uses only private donations to operate.

But, then, I live in the belly of a beast that long ago adopted a policy of walking away from responsibility for the crimes committed in the name of the American people.

Nowadays, our collateral damage may be limited to dozens of innocents killed by so-called smart bombs, easy peasy drone attacks – instead of carpet bombing whole regions, incinerating villages with napalm. I’m not convinced the difference is qualitative. Only one of opportunist political choice.