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UK’s National Health Service: Do Catholics Still Have a Place?

Over the objections of a pregnant woman and her mother, an English judge June 21 ordered doctors to perform an abortion on the woman, a Catholic woman with developmental disabilities and a mood disorder.

In her ruling, Justice Nathalie Lieven of the Court of Protection said the order was “in the best interests of the woman.“ Four days later, the decision was overturned by an appeals court.

By law, doctors, nurses, auxiliary staff, even orderlies and administrators from the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) would be obliged act upon this decision.

No choice was afforded to the woman, 22 weeks pregnant, and her unborn baby subject to the court order. For those working in the U.K.’s NHS today there would be even less choice.

Speaking to the Register, Bishop John Keenan of Paisley, who spoke out against the recent court decision, summarized the current plight of some Catholic medical staff within the NHS.

“Two Catholic midwives lost their jobs because they asked not to manage the nursing rosters for abortions, even though it would not have been difficult for the hospital to otherwise manage it,” he said. “Medics find it difficult to get jobs in general practice if they provide only natural methods of fertility awareness.”

Bishop Keenan added, “Similarly, it is difficult to qualify and practice if you are a gynecologist who exercises your conscientious objection not to perform abortions. Other practitioners have been banned from wearing crucifixes and suspect that the system treats Christianity more negatively while their peers of other religions are allowed to wear sacred accessories.”

Mercifully, the court’s decision to force an abortion was overturned on appeal. For now, at least, the judicial threat of this has receded. Yet it poses the question: What is it like for Catholics working in today’s NHS?

Speaking to the Register about the recent court case, Mary Farnan, the national secretary for the Association of Catholic Nurses, spoke of how the case highlighted the need for Catholics to remain fully present in the NHS.

She said, “The case does highlight how vulnerable individuals are when they are under the care of professionals who do not share their own values and beliefs.”

Like many Catholic nurses, Farnan considers her work vocational. Her views, and those of her fellow Catholics, may not always chime with the prevailing medical establishment, but she says that is no reason to discount them.

“To have our voice as Catholics in the NHS better enables families and patients [with whom] we work to have their voice and values and beliefs recognized, too,” she said.

Read more at National Catholic Register 

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