From Independent.ie, we learn that the Catholic Church in Ireland is promulgating its well-known stand that if you have to choose between using non-rhythm birth control and death, death is better. Mater Hospital in Dublin is about to embark on tests of new anti-cancer drugs. And, as you may know, there’s some evidence of damaging a fetus, particularly during the first trimester, if you become pregnant while undergoing chemotherapy.
At any rate, the hospital is putting out a pamphlet giving people information about these trials, but the whole issue has become bogged down because the hospital objects to any method of abstaining from pregnancy during the drug trials:
The Mater, which is Catholic run, objects to wording in the accompanying patient information leaflet which mentions various forms of artificial contraception.
It wants this changed in line with its Catholic ethos which is opposed to artificial forms of birth control such as the pill.
This has cheesed off two Irish doctors who object to medieval superstitions delaying their medical care:
In an open letter sent to the Irish Independent, Mater oncologists Dr John McCaffrey and Prof Desmond Carney said the Catholic Church had no right to interfere in the doctor-patient relationship.
In the open letter, Dr A McCaffrey and Prof Carney state:
“With more than 40 years combined experience in managing cancer, in Ireland and abroad, we strongly believe that no-one should become pregnant while on chemotherapy.
“We have always counselled our patients to avoid pregnancy.”
They continue: “This discussion – with patients and their partners – is a private matter between doctor and patient, and may involve a discussion of different methods of birth control, including abstinence.
“We believe that no Church (except that desired by the patient) or Administrator has any role in this exchange and we continue to believe and practice this.
“This is all the more relevant in our increasingly multi-cultural society.”
They say that not to give advice concerning pregnancy could result either in foetal abnormality, or the woman having to forgo cancer treatment in order that the child be born alive, but could leave the child motherless. They state: “Physical risk to the health and viability of the foetus, or treatment refusal by a pregnant woman who might die from cancer leaving a motherless child, are two potential albeit extreme results from not appropriately counselling patients before chemotherapy.”
They confirm that they already routinely make available to patients the sort of information contained in the drug advisory leaflet.
. . . Dr McCaffery is President of the Irish Society of Medical Oncology. Prof Carney is former President of the Society.
But of course some doctors may not do this, particularly if they’re Catholic. This kind of information needs to be available to all patients, and in a leaflet. And this whole kerfuffle has simply delayed the drug trials as the Church raises stupid objections to wording:
Explaining the decision [of the hospital to delay drug trials], Fr Kevin Doran, who represents Archbishop Dr Diarmuid Martin on the hospital board, said there was an objection to women being mandated to use artificial contraception if they wished to use the drug.
However, Roche Pharmaceuticals, the company behind the drug, later indicated that there was no such requirement and women could abstain from sex if that was their preferred way not to become pregnant.
I doubt that anybody is being, or has been, required to use artificial contraception. All the doctors want is a public warning that there are dangers involved in mixing chemotherapy with pregnancy, and that there are several ways to avoid pregnancy. In the meantime, people may be dying because the Church doesn’t want people covering their genitals with rubber sheaths. Such is legacy of medieval theology.