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article imageCatholic hospital denies life-saving operation to pregnant woman

By Megan Hamilton     Sep 17, 2015 in World
Grand Blanc - Jessica Mann is in the third trimester of her third pregnancy, but instead of resting and preparing for her baby, she's locked in a battle with her Catholic hospital which refuses to grant the 33-year-old social worker a potentially life-saving operation.
She has pilocytic astrocytoma brain tumors, and this means any future pregnancies could prove fatal, Jezebel reports. Not only that, but because of the tumors, she won't be able to give birth naturally due to the risk of seizure. Instead, she'll have to undergo a Cesarean section with full anaesthesia. So she's trying to follow the recommendation of her obstetrician and a maternal fetal medicine specialist, and has opted for a tubal ligation (to have her tubes tied) while under anesthesia and immediately after giving birth.
Mann's hospital, Genesys Regional Medical Center, a Catholic hospital based in Grand Blanc, Michigan, is part of Ascension, the largest nonprofit Catholic healthcare system in the U.S., and it adheres to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services, which is a document written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, not doctors. These directives outline the types of medicine Catholics are allowed to practice while remaining good Catholics, Jezebel notes.
Genesys Regional Medical Center.
Genesys Regional Medical Center.
YouTube screen grab ACLU
Mann had read that the hospital had changed its policies the year before, but in May her doctor told her to make the sterilization request a medical exception, RT.com reports.
Then the hospital informed her that it was denying her request based on religious grounds. The church forbids procedures that cause sterilization, including vasectomies, and Mann did not qualify for an exception, officials said.
"I was surprised and upset," Mann said. She sent a letter to the hospital via the American Civil Liberties Union that threatened legal action, The Washington Post reports. "And there was anger at the fact that they can disregard medical issues for their religious beliefs."
So RT contacted Ascension, requesting comment about the denial of service.
"As a Catholic healthcare system, we follow the ethical and religious directives of the Church," said Johnny Smith, director of media relations for Ascension. "Beyond that, we can't comment on this patient's particular case."
Federal law provides an exemption for medical providers if they don't want to provide abortion or sterilization services, the Post reports.
The ACLU sent Mann's letter on Friday.
The organization notes that 10 of the 25 largest hospital systems in the U.S. are Catholic-sponsored, and nearly one of nine hospital beds is in a Catholic facility.
The ACLU also said:
"Although everyone has a right to practice their religion as they see fit, religion cannot be used to harm others, which is what is happening here. Jessica Mann and every person who goes into the hospital seeking medical care should not have to worry that religious beliefs rather than medical judgment will dictate what care they receive."
Mann was diagnosed a decade ago with two of the tumors, and even though they are benign, they can cause blindness or paralysis, the Post notes. She had emergency surgery to remove one of the tumors and has been receiving regular care and monitoring to make certain that the other tumor stays harmless, she said.
When she became pregnant three years ago, her pregnancy was treated as high-risk, and because of the conditions of the tumor, she delivered via Cesarean section while fully anesthetized, instead of undergoing the more common method of partial anesthesia, which numbs the lower body.
With the impending birth of her third child, a daughter, she and her husband were elated, she said. However, when a maternal-fetal-medicine specialist told them earlier this year that Mann should have a tubal ligation to ensure this would be her last child, she admits it made her sad.
"You know, it's never easy to hear that," she says. "But I have accepted it. I talked it over with my husband. We want me to be around. That's the biggest thing."
Now the family is in the process of finding a new hospital and doctor while the ACLU forges ahead with the case. Changing physicians and hospitals this late in her pregnancy is frustrating and stressful, Mann said.
Hospital administrators suggested that she could have her baby at Genesys and get the tubal ligation done at a later date at a different hospital, but her doctor says that undergoing another surgery weeks after a Cesarean could be just as harmful to her health as another pregnancy, the Post reports.
"The feeling of the unknown is stressful and disheartening," she said. "But I have the support of my husband and my doctor, so I can't let it affect me too much."
Mann's baby is due next month, Jezebel notes, adding that the hospital did not respond to requests for comment.
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