Catholic Medical Association Opposes Health Care Bill Over End-of-Life Section

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 21, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Medical Association Opposes Health Care Bill Over End-of-Life Section

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 21
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — The Catholic Medical Association has announced that it opposes the government-run health care bills in Congress because the House version contains a section that could promote assisted suicide and rationing. The end-of-life counseling portion of the bill has proven extremely controversial.

At issue for pro-life advocates is Section 1233 of HR 3200, the health care plan the House will consider when it returns from its August recess.

The measure would pay physicians to give Medicare patients end-of-life counseling every five years or sooner if the patient has a terminal diagnosis. Pro-life advocates say the section opens the door to physicians pushing assisted suicide, withdrawal of lifesaving medical treatment, or even basic food and water.

While other Catholic organizations like the Catholic Health Association support the bill, CMA does not.

John Brehany, a medical ethicist who directs the CMA, told the Catholic Sentinel, "“While it is unfortunately true that physicians are paid for procedures rather than providing advice, and that in many cases people do not give adequate attention to end of life treatment decisions prior to a health crisis, the Catholic Medical Association cannot support Rep. Blumenauer’s bill as it stands."

Brehany said CMA would have to withdraw support until "it is clear that such consultation would be voluntary and that other safeguards are in place to protect the elderly against pressure to forgo legitimate medical treatment and care."

“The legal and ethical presumption in health care is to provide life-sustaining treatments unless and until they are refused,” Brehany told the newspaper.

“While this results in overtreatment at times, such a bill, without more adequate safeguards, could provide one-way financial incentives to persuade vulnerable elderly and ill patients to inappropriately refuse treatments far in advance of a need to address such questions," he said.

Organizations like CMA are also concerned that a pro-euthanasia group called ‘Compassion & Choices’ has publicly admitted to writing the controversial portions of the legislation that deal with rationing.

On the organization’s web site, a spokesman confirms Compassion’s involvement, writing: "Compassion & Choices has worked tirelessly with supportive members of Congress to include in proposed reform legislation a provision requiring Medicare to cover patient consultation with their doctors about end-of-life choice (section 1233 of House Bill 3200)."

Compassion & Choices is an offshoot of a 1980s organization called the Hemlock Society, America’s leading advocate for assisted suicide.

The end of life concerns are in addition to the abortion problems CMA has with the bill.

It joins the nation’s Catholic bishops in worrying that the measure would overturn conscience rights for pro-life medical professionals and that the legislation will result in abortion funding and coverage mandates.

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