Friday, January 15, 2010

Political Gaff of the Week

Which will probably cost Martha Coakley a seat in the Senate. Coakley, stuck her foot in her mouth when discussing teh conscience clause, she says that devout Catholics should not work in the emergency rooms:
Ken Pittman: Right, if you are a Catholic, and believe what the Pope teaches that any form of birth control is a sin. ah you don’t want to do that.

Martha Coakley: No we have a seperation of church and state Ken, lets be clear.

Ken Pittman: In the emergency room you still have your religious freedom.

Martha Coakley: (……uh, eh…um..) The law says that people are allowed to have that. You can have religious freedom but you probably shouldn’t work in the emergency room.
first off, let's be clear, this exchange contains a fair number of non-sequiters, i.e. Pittman's two statements are necessarily connected since birth control is not generally dispensed in the emergency room. But Coakley could have still simply agreed with Pittman and said yes, in the emergency room you still have your freedom of religion.

But saying that having devout religious beliefs conflicts with being an emergency room worker is ludicrous. Indeed, I would think that giving the suffering often present in emergency rooms, a health care worker either becomes incredibly cynical about human nature or develops a deep belief in the divine. There doesn't seem to be much room for anything in the middle.

Given that nearly 2 out of 5 voters in Massachussets is Catholic and it is not unreasonable to believe that there are emergency room workers who are devoutly religious in other faiths, this simply doesn't strike me as wise politics.


L A Neumann said...

Almost 95% of Catholic women will use some form of birth control in their lives. While the hierarchy may claim that Catholic women shouldn't use contraception, their followers don't agree.

Coakley has a point that gets to the heart of patients' rights and religiously delivered medicine: if scientific medical services aren't your thing, maybe for the sake of a woman's rights you shouldn't be in an emergency room where rape victims need to be informed of all of their rights, not just those that you as a Catholic have.

Religious discrimination of those in vulnerable need has no place in an emergency room - or in delivery of health care.

How is discrimination against a patient ever acceptable? Whose conscience matters? Consumer rights are claimed in so many other industries - the food we eat, the toys we buy - but in health care it's still legal to not be given the services you need, even after you've been victimized.

Matt Johnston said...

I think we are talking apples and oranges here. My mother (who grew up in a devout Catholic Family) had a simple message for the Pope when it came to contraception, "Your Holiness, I won't take contraception if you will help me raise my children." That 95% of Catholic women use contraception is not the issue here.

If a health care worker refuses on religious grounds to not provide a specific treatment in an emergency room setting, it is not that the patient is not going to get care, they just won't get it from that person. As far as I know there are not too many Jehovah's Witnesses working in an emergency room (Jehovah's Witnesses object to blood transfusions), nor am I aware of too many contraceptives being dispenses in an emergency room.

The problem is one of perception for Coakley. In a state with as many Catholics in it as Massachusets, saying that Catholics shouldn't do any job, particularly medicine, because of their faith is a bad move.

People, including my Catholic mother who is also a Registered Nurse, who are devoutly religious may find many, many other health care fields to work in where conflicts are unlikely to arise. For example, my mother is a pediatric, neo-natal and maternity ward nurse.

There is also the possibility that devoutly religious people will see their profession in an emergency room to not only be a persona choice, but a calling by God. Are we to deny both a personal choice and a divine calling simply because they may refuse to provide one type of treatment?