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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Arizona Bishop Olmsted - "First Do No Harm"

I'm a fan of reading The National Catholic Reporter.

This week's lead story is an objective report about how Germain Trisez, who teaches Christian ethics at Mount St. Mary College and Seminary in Emmetsburg, Maryland, is challenging the ethics of a horrible decision made by Arizona Bishop Thomas Olmsted to excommunicate Mercy Sister Margaret Mary McBride, because she supported a critical decision to allow an abortion for a woman whose life was in imminent peril from complications caused by an 11 week fetus. Trisez makes several points in the article to contradict Bishop Olmsted's ruling. Essentially, "intent" of the decision to permit the abortion is not thoroughly vetted in Bishop Olmsted's act.

Above is the link to the on-line National Catholic Reporter story.

Bishop Olmsted should pay attention to the words in the physicians Hippocratic Oath - "First Do No Harm". Bishop Olmsted's precipitous decision to excommunicate Sister McBride has caused harm to many living people.

Obviously, everyone who served on the hospital's ethics board and supported the life saving decision to abort the 11 week fetus has been harmed by the Bishop's precipitous decision. Ethics committee members must be just as responsible for saving the pregnant woman's life as is Sister McBride.

Nonetheless, if committee members were Roman Catholic, they were apparently spared the stigma of excommunication. Sister McBride is harmed because she supported saving the life of a 27 year old woman who is reported to be the mother of 4 other children. Of course, it goes without saying, the young mother was harmed because she quite likely feels a sense of shame for receiving an abortion which has now caused emotional pain on her family and brought harm to those who saved her life.

Bishop Olmsted is not God. Does he need to be reminded of this obvious fact?

Let's pray for Sister McBride. Moreover, let's support the revocation of Sister's unethical excommunication from the church. Sister McBride bravely participated in a life saving decision to protect four young children from growing up without a mother due to complications of an 11 week pregnancy. Bishop Olmsted, I am a Roman Catholic nurse who would have made the same decision as Sister McBride.

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Blogger Juliana Maine Writer said...

Comment from John in New Hampshire:
"Realizing that I am not a moral theologian, though I have done graduate work in moral theology and in philosophical ethics, one needs to take my words with less than certitude. That being said, feel free to post my comments.
Peace in the Lord Jesus,
John, SJ"
Dear Julie,
The ethicist is Germain Grisez and he is a very main-stream ethicist. I suspect that he is applying a similar argument to that used for an ectopic pregnancy. Since the fetus cannot survive such a pregnancy, the church has taught, at least since Pope Pius XII over 60 years ago, that the fetus can be removed to save the mother. It is an application of the principal of double effect.
Although I don't know the details, it looks like the bishop jumped the gun on this one. He should have consulted with a number of ethicists. Most would probably take the same position as Professor Grisez. Decisions like the bishop's tends to weaken the pro-life position as it makes it look unreasonable. To protect life is eminently reasonable, but when two lives are in the balance, careful moral analysis is needed.
Peace in the Lord Jesus,
John, SJ

4:36 PM  

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