Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Dishonesty in the Diocese

The July 1, 2007 issue of The Catholic Post in Peoria has an article: “Bishop Reestablishes Diocesan Health Care Committee”.

The article begins:

“As the culture moves further from Catholic moral teachings in the field of health care, strengthening the Catholic identity of our health care institutions is more important than ever.

“That is the primary mission of the Diocesan Health Care Committee, co-chaired by Father Mark Merdian, pastor of St. Matthew’s Parish in Champaign, and Lynn Grandon, director of the diocesan Office of Respect Life and Human Dignity.”

Father Merdian asked Bishop Daniel R. Jenky to revive what was formerly called the Diocesan Ethics Committee.

“The ethics committee had gone dormant when the chairman, Msgr. Steven Rohlfs, became rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md, more than two years ago.

“Father Merdian, along with OSF HealthCare corporate ethicist Joseph Piccione, had served on that committee.

“The reconstituted and renamed committee, which meets quarterly, currently has 26 active members. Father Merdian, Grandon, Piccione and Sister Judith Ann Duvall, OSF, chairperson of OSF Healthcare System, serve together on the Diocesan Health Care Committee’s planning committee.

“The other members include hospital administrators, doctors, priests and deacons who serve as heads of pastoral care committees at hospitals, and ethics committee members from different hospitals.

“Bishop Jenky agreed with Father Merdian’s request to reestablish the committee, according to Grandon, because he saw the need to keep up communications between the bishop and the diocese's health care institution, and to help them make sure they adhere to Catholic moral teaching.

“It’s such an exciting group to be a part of. I’m so glad the bishop is letting us do this,” Grandon said.

“Bishop Jenky understands, Grandon explained, that advancing respect for life isn’t just about fighting abortion. That is just one important thread in the fabric of Catholic moral teaching and medical ethics, she said.

Piccione agreed. “We have a biblical mandate to care for the poor,” he said. “The first right, which is the right to life, includes adequate health care. It says that in the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, from the Catholic bishops of the U.S., so it really has the level of a church teaching.”

The church’s concern for the sick, Piccione said, is “rooted in the lived example of our Lord, but also the experience of the apostles in the early church.”

Health care ministry “is ancient in the church’s experience, and it’s to be applied to our experience in the 21st century,” he said.

“Among the responsibilities of the Diocesan Health Care Committee are assisting and advising diocesan health care institutions with matters of medical ethics. The committee also offers guidance regarding competition with other health care institutions and financial and marketing issues, said Father Merdian.

“According to Grandon, the committee is also planning to create a questionnaire and an audit system to ensure diocesan health care institutions are adhering to and are effectively teaching the church’s religious and ethical directives.”

My comments regarding The Catholic Post article:

The article is shameless. If I would have read this article a few years ago, I would have thought how worthwhile this idea was. Now I have a hard time believing that our Catholic leaders will actually do the right thing. I've seen too much damage and watched local Catholic leaders threaten, ignore, and hide.

I have extensively documented my thoughts regarding the Catholic Diocese of Peoria and OSF in Peoria on Peoria’s Medical Mafia, PMM Daily, Dying in Haiti, and John Carroll’s Posts. Both institutions have shown little respect for young Haitians that need to return to Peoria for heart surgery.

I would like to believe that the new Health Care Committee will make a difference. I think that Fr. Merdian’s hopes and goals are sincere. However, he has many obstacles in his way.

Joe Piccione was hired by OSF in the mid 1990’s to find a way, with the collaboration of the Catholic Diocese of Peoria, to allow OSF to better compete in the local medical market regarding prescribing oral contraceptives and constructing a “firewall” for sterilization procedeures. Joe, the Diocese, and OSF were successful.

Joe, who is extensively quoted in the article above, is currently on the International Committee at OSF-Children's Hospital of Illinois, to select or deny kids needing surgery at OSF-Children's Hospital of Illinois. Haitian Hearts patients, that were operated at OSF several years ago, are now dying in Haiti. OSF refuses to accept them back even with full and partial charges offered by Haitian Hearts for their care.

Other medical centers don’t want to accept these OSF patients for a multiplicity of reasons. Other medical center physicians and administrators believe that OSF is acting negligently.

Where have Joe’s public statements been supporting these kids returning to OSF for their care? Joe states that it is a “biblical mandate” to care for the poor. He even states that the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Bishops regarding health care are at the level of church teaching. Does Joe Piccione really believe that OSF needs to follow these Directives? Remember, OSF signs his paycheck.

I believe that if the Diocese and OSF, with the help of their Catholic ethicists, Monsignor Rohlfs, Piccione, and a few others, could so adeptly deal with the local oral contraceptive issue at OSF, then they can easily dismiss Haitian kids to early deaths.

Will the new Committee have any ability to have creative discussions or dissent? Will the Committee use the Ethical and Religious Directives as "church teaching" and evidence to convince OSF and Bishop Jenky that the Directives need to be followed and that respect for life includes Haitians? Will the Committee mainly be “yes” people from the Diocese and the OSF System that will maintain the status quo regarding respect for life issues at OSF?

A July 5, 2007 article in the New England Journal of Medicine mentioned ethics committees:

“Whereas the judicial system assures Americans of having a “jury of peers", hospital ethics committees are not held to this standard. Although it is true that most committees include one or two members of the community (often grateful patients of the hospital), most members are physicians, nurses, and other clinicians from the hospital staff. Without in any way calling into question their motivations or intentions, we must recognize that they are unavoidably “insiders,” completely acculturated to the clinical world and its attendant values.

“Of course we could do better. Some have suggested setting up ad hoc ethics committees with a membership that truly represents the diversity of the local population, without any financial or social ties to the hospitals they serve, specifically to offer a more legitimate sounding board for difficult cases in which the hospital ethics committee could be seen as having a conflict of interest or a biased perspective.”

I worry that the new Diocesan Committee will have a "biased perspective".

Until Bishop Jenky takes control, dismisses his fear of OSF, and insists that the Ethical and Religious Directives be followed at OSF, Haitian children will continue to die.

Father Merdian has his work cut out for him.

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