Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Case of Sister Margaret McBride

The Catholic Church is taking a big risk by excommunicating a nun, also a nurse, for doing her job. Sister Mary McBride, an RN administrator of a Catholic hospital in Phoenix Arizona, approved a life-saving abortion for a woman who was 11 weeks pregnant at her hospital. The woman suffers from pulmonary hypertension, a condition which would have a greater than 50% chance of killing both mom and baby if the pregnancy was allowed to go on. According to news reports, the Bishop who excommunicated her, later also stripping the hospital of it's affiliation with the Catholic church as well, claims to take issue with the fact that treatment of the mother was never attempted before the abortion was approved and carried out. Well, it basically shows that Catholic Priests have no business practicing medicine, because the TREATMENT for that disease IS termination of the pregnancy. All that delaying the abortion would have accomplished is forcing the mom to go through several more weeks or months of a doomed pregnancy (at the risk of losing her life at any time), only to be forced to perform a later term abortion on a more fully developed fetus.
It is interesting to note that the Catholic church does not feel that the crimes committed by pedophiliac priest/molesters are bad enough to warrant excommunication, yet they feel that a Registered Nurse who is carrying out her mission to heal others is worthy of this most awful punishment.
I am not a big fan of abortions. I would hazard a guess that, in this circumstance, nobody involved found an abortion to be the ideal solution to the problem. However, it was the only solution that could ensure the safety of the mother. An 11 week old fetus is not going to survive outside the womb, so if the mom died the baby would have died too. A double tragedy. As nurses, we are taught during our labor and delivery course that the mother's survival trumps survival of the baby. Sad and scary to think about having to make that decision, makes sense.
I wish I had some way of reaching out to Sister Margaret. As a nurse, as a woman and as a mother. I wish I could tell her that I'm proud to know we have people like her in our profession. I wish I could tell her how much it means, as well, that there are administrators out there who truly put the patient first and then stand up to the world and defend their decision instead of letting someone on staff take the fall (of note, I read a report that indicated she had been "reassigned" to a different position as a result of this incident). Ultimately, I'd like to tell her I'm glad she broke the rules of her religion and answered a higher calling...her own personal conviction of what is right.

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