Daryl Ilbury

When bizarre medieval beliefs obstruct modern medicine

In Eish!, Fools, Science, Scoundrels on January 3, 2015 at 7:58 am

witch_tortureI don’t know of any other area where science and society clash more than around religion, which is why it interests me. There are so many areas of science where evidence has completely disproved religious belief, and where religion has eventually (albeit reluctantly) accepted such evidence (e.g. a helio-centric solar system as opposed to a universe with Earth at the centre), or where religion chooses to reject scientific evidence and hang blindly onto its construct (e.g. evolution vs creation).

However, what is of particular concern to me is where such religious construct clashes with science around civil liberties. A recent piece in The Atlantic is a case in point. It reports on research done in Catholic hospitals where doctors are not allowed to perform tubal ligations (tube-tying) – a routine procedure and one of the most common forms of sterilisation – requested by women who have had multiple children through C-sections. Such requests by women in these circumstances is understandable given that they run a real risk of harm if they are forced to undergo another C-section. This is of particular concern to doctors at these hospitals who face dismissal and legal action if they perform the procedure – even though it’s in the best medical interests of the patient. This is of course because of the Catholic church’s official objection to contraception. It is bizarre that the Catholic church still hangs on to the medieval belief so wondrously captured by the Monty Python team that every sperm is sacred (in which case, as the wry observation reminds us, male masturbation is mass murder).

What stands out for me is that according to the piece in The Atlantic, Catholic hospitals in the US are prohibited from providing sterilisation under the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which are issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and enforced by local bishops; and yet these same directives claim that “Catholic health care ministry seeks to contribute to the common good [which] is realized [sic] when economic, political, and social conditions ensure protection for the fundamental rights of all individuals“. Since when is a woman’s decision about her own body not her ‘fundamental right’?

Let’s not forget these directives are handed down by a powerful organisation controlled entirely by men.

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