• Almost a third of Catholic hospitals are located in rural areas.
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Confidential Survey to Identify Impact on LGBT Patients

The MergerWatch Project is interested in finding out more about how gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people are being affected by religious health care restrictions and discrimination in health care delivery based on religious views. Please review the following questions and contact us via our secure email contact form if you can help provide information about these problems. We will keep your answers strictly confidential.

  1. Have you ever had difficulty getting health care at a religiously-sponsored hospital because of your sexual orientation? Have the attitudes of staff been a factor in discouraging you from seeking care?
  2. Have you or your partner had difficulty being recognized by hospital staff as legitimate next of kin, with the right to make medical decisions for each other?
  3. Has a religiously-sponsored hospital or hospice ever refused to honor the wishes of a dying partner to have feeding tubes removed or a DNR (do not resuscitate) order placed in a medical chart?
  4. Do religious hospitals and clinics in your area allow staff to recommend condom use to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV or other diseases? Or is discussion of condom use and “safer sex” practices prohibited?
  5. Have lesbians been denied artificial insemination services at local hospitals or clinics?
  6. Have lesbians and gay men suffered discrimination in employment or partner health insurance benefits at religious hospitals in your region?  

Religious Restrictions:
Health Care for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual
and Transgender Persons

The LGBT community has faced religious restrictions on access to health care at hospitals and clinics, as well as religiously-motivated discrimination from individual health care providers. New federal rules are ensuring LGBT people can visit loved ones in hospitals, but other problems with religious health providers persist.

Refusals to Provide Care

Physicians at a California infertility clinic refused to provide standard infertility services to a lesbian patient because they were Christian fundamentalists who did not approve of her sexual orientation. The patient sued, and her case was taken up by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. In August 2008, California Supreme Court unanimously rules in favor of the patient, making clear that California’s state law prohibiting discrimination must be followed. You can read more about the case, Benitez v. North Coast Women's Care Medical Group, at Lambda’s website.

Refusals to Provide Health Insurance Coverage

After the state of Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2004, the Catholic-affiliated Caritas Christi Heath Care system terminated the employee health insurance plan at its Massachusetts hospitals in order to avoid having to cover the spouses of lesbian or gay employees. The hospitals changed to self-funded health plans, which are governed by federal, not state law. Under the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the hospitals are not required to extend insurance benefits to the spouses of gay or lesbian employees.

Another discriminatory practice involves health insurance policies that define infertility in a way that excludes lesbians (such as by requiring that the woman have attempted to become pregnant through heterosexual sex for a certain period of time). A Texas infertility statue limits coverage to married women using their husband’s sperm, according to the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Ridicule of Transgender Patients

The Albany Transgender Social Center, a group representing transgender people in New York’s Capital District, has reported that transgender patients are being ridiculed by physicians at Catholic-sponsored hospital in the region.

Attempts to Legalize Discrimination Against LGBT Patients

In 2004, the House of Representatives in Michigan voted in favor of a proposed law that would have allowed doctors to refuse to treat gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender patients based on moral, ethical or religious beliefs. Paul A. Long, vice president for public policy for the Michigan Catholic Conference, applauded the move. "Individual and institutional health-care providers can and should maintain their mission and their services without compromising faith-based teaching," his written statement said.

Calling the Republican-backed measure "frightening" and "inhumane," Kathleen DeBold, Executive Director of the Mautner Project for Lesbian Health, said, "A core belief held  by doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists and other health care professionals is to 'first do no harm.' And nothing could be more harmful to someone who is ill than denying them care." Fortunately, the measure did not win final approval in the Legislature.

New regulations on hospital visitation & other health care issues affecting LGBT families

Acting on recommendations made by the Obama administration, Health and Human Services issued new rules governing the treatment that LGBT patients and their families should receive in federally funded hospitals last fall.

The new regulations require hospitals to have written visitation policies; to inform patients of their right to designate visitors, including a same-sex spouse or domestic partner; and to not discriminate with respect to visitation rights based on sexual orientation, gender identity and other characteristics. Learn more here.