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  • There's always grieving when you lose a pregnancy, but then to have an entity questioning your decision; that compounds that trauma.

    - Dr. Ross, OBGYN

Patients' Rights:
Informed Consent

Patients must be informed of all treatment options so that they are able to give fully informed consent based on medical recommendations and their own individual and ethical and religious beliefs. 

Some religiously-sponsored hospitals limit patients' ability to give truly informed consent by restricting the information they can be provided about proposed treatments. For example, the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services, which are issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for use by Catholic hospitals, specify (Directive No. 27) that patients should be informed about proposed treatment and any "morally legitimate alternatives." Who decides what is a "morally legitimate" alternative? That is not spelled out, but typically, a Catholic hospital ethics committee would make such determinations (sometimes on a case-by-case basis) in consultation with the local Bishop.

It should not be considered acceptable hospital practice to withhold information about some treatment options because of a hospital’s ethical or religious policies. Hospitals that serve the general public and receive public funding should adopt policies that explicitly ensure patients’ right to be informed of all treatment options, including those not offered at the hospital. Such policies should be prominently posted within the hospital, incorporated into employee training and enforced though quality assurance and other internal review programs.

Further, hospital licensing and accreditation authorities should incorporate into licensing and accreditation requirements the assurance of fully informed patient consent.  Compliance should be documented in hospital records and reviewed periodically by licensing and accreditation authorities.

Finally, compliance with fully-informed consent requirements should be a condition of hospital participation in the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs.  The existing informed consent language for those programs should be strengthened to explicitly state that information about treatment options may not be withheld from patients because of hospital ethical or religious practices.