Resolution to Prevent Denial of Lawful Health Care Services in Washington

(recommended by the King County Democrats Resolution and Platform Committee)

WHEREAS hospitals in Washington have increasingly been merging or otherwise affiliating with hospitals or other healthcare systems controlled by the Roman Catholic Church , resulting in nearly half of our state’s hospital beds and patient care having becoming subject to “Ethical and Religious Directives” issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; and

WHEREAS the Bishops’ Directives require adherence to the religious doctrinal principles of the Catholic Church in the delivery of hospital health care services, thereby precluding contraception counseling and preventing the provision or use of such contraceptive methods as condoms, birth control pills, morning-after pills, intrauterine devices (IUDs), vasectomies, and tubal ligations; and

WHEREAS application of those Directives prohibits abortion in virtually any circumstance and, conversely, prohibits assistance with fertility problems; and

WHEREAS application of the Bishops’ Directives in end-of-life situations prohibits compliance with a patient’s written “do not resuscitate” instructions and/or choice of a voluntary “death with dignity” as provided by state law; and

WHEREAS the percentage of Washington acute care hospital beds subject to such religious control is now the highest in the United States (45%, up from 26% in 2010), leaving both Catholics and non-Catholics alike, in several parts of the state, so situated that the only health care practically available is at facilities subject to the restrictions imposed by the Bishops’ Directives; and

WHEREAS several business owners have, because of those Directives, refused to include one or more of the above health-care services in their employee health insurance plans, and several pharmacy owners have refused to dispense certain legal contraceptive products; and

WHEREAS several Washington hospitals subject to the Bishops’ Directives have, because of a limited concept of “family” derived from Roman Catholic moral teaching with no current foundation in Washington law, excluded lesbian and gay family members from participating in treatment decisions regarding their incapacitated loved ones, and denied incapacitated patients the comfort of visitation by such family members; and

WHEREAS Washington’s State Constitution specifically guarantees, to every person, “Absolute freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief and worship”; and

WHEREAS, notwithstanding the undeniable right of individuals to conform their personal lives to their own conscience, those who choose to participate directly or indirectly in the provision of needed health-related services or products must, in doing so, give full regard to patients’ needs and rights to be accorded treatment under medically accepted standards of care, including “Best Practices” in the clinical context;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that, in order to protect Washington’s population from being subjected to unreasonable health-care limitations imposed by a particular faith’s clergy, we (1) urge our State Legislature to promptly enact a law specifically prohibiting hospitals and other healthcare organizations and businesses from denying lawful care and services based on religious ideology, and (2) in the interim, urge our Attorney General to enforce existing State law to the maximum degree – including but not limited to the provisions of RCW 19.86 regarding Unfair Practices generally, and WAC 246-310 regarding increased scrutiny of health-care mergers and affiliations.

Adopted _________________ by _____________________________

Originated by Chuck Bean

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