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Posted November 12, 2009

Book: Diagnosis Critical: The Urgent Threats Confronting Catholic Healthcare
Author: Leonard J. Nelson III
Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN. 2009. Pp. 343

An Excerpt from the Introduction:

This book focuses on the ongoing struggle to preserve a distinctly Catholic health care system in the United States. Part One discusses the moral foundations of Catholic health care.

Part Two discusses the transformation of Catholic hospitals form religious ministries to large scale business enterprises.

Part Three reviews the struggle of two health care systems to maintain their Catholic identity.

Part Four discusses the role of conscience in health care and particularly the problem of the accommodation of conscientious objection for Catholic health care providers.

Part Five discusses end of life care issues with a particular focus on the controversy over withdrawing assisted nutrition and hydration from patients in a persistent vegetative state and the case of Terri Schiavo.

Part Six focuses on social justice and health care reform with particular attention to the role of Catholic health care organizations in advocating reforms, and the threats posed by the adoption of universal health care.

Finally, Catholics have to focus their future efforts on the creation of alternatives to acute care hospitals such as free clinics, specialized centeres for reproductive medicine and hospices for end-of-life care that could reinvigorate the religious health care ministry.

An Excerpt from the Book:

If FOCA [Freedom of Choice Act] is adopted, it could override existing conscience protection laws. Catholic institutions could be forced to close their obstetrics units to avoid having to perform sterilizations and abortions. Comprehensive health care reform could bring with it mandates requiring all hospitals to provide full-range reproductive services as a condition of receiving federal funding. If Catholic healthcare institutions in the United States are no longer permitted to receive federal funding and follow ERDs, [Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services] and particularly their restrictions on the provision of abortions and sterilizations, then the bishops face a difficult dilemma. The continuing recognition of healthcare institutions as Catholic even though they are providing reproductive health care services in violation of the specific norms of the ERDs will undoubtedly create a substantial risk of scandal among the faithful. On the other hand, closure of these institutions or withdrawal of recognition of their Catholic nature and the severing of any links with the local bishop, will substantially diminish the role of the Catholic Church in health care.

Table of Contents:

1. The moral foundations of Catholic health care

2. Catholic identity

3. The struggle to maintain Catholic identity

4. Catholic health care and conscientious objection

5. End-of-life issues

6. Social justice and health care