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Federal court rules Catholic hospital cannot refuse transgender surgery

surgeons in operating room


J-P Mauro - published on 01/17/23

The judge criticized the guidance of the National Catholic Bioethics Center as discriminant against transgender patients.

A hospital that follows the guidance of the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) has found itself in hot water for refusing to perform a hysterectomy on a transgender individual. A federal district judge has ruled that the refusal to remove the otherwise healthy organ constituted sexual discrimination. The hysterectomy was deemed necessary by the patient’s doctor to treat gender dysphoria. 

According to the Hill, the case revolved around Jesse Hammonds, a 33-year-old transgender patient — a biological female who has transitioned to male. Hammonds was scheduled for a hysterectomy on January 6, 2023, but the procedure was canceled when the surgeon was informed that the operation was for the purpose of gender transitioning. The hospital’s Catholic policies would not allow the operation to proceed.

The case is particularly complicated because of the relationship between the hospital, which is technically a public facility, and the Church. St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland, was originally a Catholic hospital that was purchased by the University of Maryland Health System.National Review notes that the conditions of the sale required the hospital to operate under the guidance of the NCBC. 

These guidelines include two principles of Catholic health care ethics in particular: one forbids the sterilization of a patient absent the necessary pathology (i.e. cancer), and the other forbids the removal of a healthy organ: 

“Gender transitioning of any kind is intrinsically disordered because it cannot conform to the true good of the human person, who is a body-soul union unalterably created male or female. Gender transitioning should never be performed, encouraged, or positively affirmed as a good in Catholic health care. This includes surgeries, the administration of cross-sex hormones or pubertal blockers, and social or behavioral modifications.”

According to CNA, U.S. District Court Judge Deborah K. Chasanow’s ruling criticized the guidelines of the NCBC as inherently discriminatory. This, in turn, has proponents of Catholic bioethics worried that the arguments used in this case could be used against purely Catholic hospitals. Joseph Meaney, president of the NCBC, told CNA: 

“The big danger is that Catholic hospitals are going to be coerced and legally attacked for not providing transgender interventions. Then they have to defend themselves in court. They have to stand up for their religious liberty rights and conscience rights and that, of course, is very expensive and difficult. And in the end, they might even be shut down.”

Meaney went on to note the importance of allowing Catholic hospitals to continue to serve according to the dictates of conscience as well as the conscience rights of patients. He even suggested that the compulsory transgender interventions could destroy Catholic healthcare.

The University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center said that they are reviewing the ruling. While they did not expressly state they would seek an appeal, they did note that they “dispute many of the conclusions that were reached in this decision.”

CatholicismHealth and WellnessTransgenderUnited States
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