require due to the hospitals’ religious backing (Catholics for Choice, 2005). In 2016, MergerWatch found that four of the top 10 hospital systems were Catholic, accounting for 271 hospitals (MergerWatch, 2016). For a lot of people, these Catholic-sponsored hospitals are where they go for primary care and these hospitals do provide excellent health care, they may just lack certain services. According to Lois Uttley, director of MergerWatch, issues can arise when restrictions are placed upon the type of care a patient receives, especially in terms of reproductive healthcare (Minemyer, 2016). So, why are hospitals allowed exercise religious beliefs? Simply put, they are within their constitutional rights, just as a patient with no religious convictions is as well. It is challenging for Catholic hospitals to uphold their values in a more secular society. The question of whether religion affects the access to quality healthcare can be influenced by one’s own religious affiliation (Klaus, 2014). A practicing Catholic will likely be satisfied with healthcare provided to them by their Catholic hospital.The issue of religion and health care is ever-present. In 2018, the Trump administration was working on new regulations that would expand the religious and moral exemptions for covering birth control, regulations that would severely limit women’s access to contraception (Schmidt, 2018). In the past few years, there have been protests calling on the US government to stop meddling in the reproductive rights of women, especially as these policies and regulations are usually based on moral and religious reasoning. Many women believe they should have control over their bodies and that health care and religious convictions should not mix. Conversely, many believe that they should not support something they do not believe in, such as abortion and contraception. During Obama’s presidency, the administration was facing several lawsuits from businesses such as Hobby Lobby, a craft store in the US, which stated that providing their employees contraception violated their religious beliefs (Schmidt, 2018). As is evident, religion can affect the lives of people who are not religious themselves. An employer can deny free access to health care if it goes against their religious beliefs and, to some extent, it makes sense; the business itself would likely be paying for these services and if it is not something they support, why would they pay for it? It is important to understand both sides of the issue because in the end, everyone is doing what they think is best. The entwining of religion and health care is not a new concept. Laws and regulations have been passed based upon religious beliefs. The laws regarding freedom of expressing religion and the “church amendments” do not affect just Catholic hospitals but also allow for any health care providers, including pharmacists, to refuse services. In 2018, an Arizona woman, Nicole Mone Arteaga, went to a local Walgreens to fulfill a prescription that would induce miscarriage after she found out her baby of 9 weeks had stopped developing in the womb (Cullinane, 2018). She said the pharmacist denied her prescription and she felt like she had lost control over her own body; she even tried to explain that it was not her choice to do this but it did not change the outcome (Cullinane, 2018). It is a difficult situation as both parties are fully within their rights. The question is, how do we find the balance so that Catholic hospitals can continue to follow their ethical and religious directives without imposing their beliefs onto patients? Is this even a possibility? How can patients receive the medical care they need without putting a doctor, nurse or pharmacist in an ethical dilemma? The goal would be to make sure patients are receiving the best care but at what cost? For a religious person, sacrificing their religious and moral beliefs is unfathomable. For a patient, they likely expect their doctors to go above and beyond and do what is necessary to provide the best care, regardless of their convictions. Unfortunately, the balance between religion and health care has yet to be achieved.ConclusionA hospital itself can be religious and can choose which services to provide to patients based on its beliefs. In the US, this has been an issue for quite some time. Religious freedom can hinder a patient’s right to treatment and this can really affect people whose only option is a religiously-sponsored hospital. Religion also plays a role in the establishment of policies and regulations, especially when it comes to women’s reproductive health. Essentially, due to federal and state laws, religion is able to influence the development and implementation of health care procedures and it is affecting the treatments patients receive. People are able to impose their religious beliefs onto others whilst being protected by the law. On the other hand, it can be said that non-religious people are putting pressure on others to ignore their religious and moral reasonings. Doctors, surgeons, pharmacists and nurses can all be placed in an ethical dilemma when treating a patient – so, should they sacrifice their beliefs in favour of patient care? The trend of religion in health care, especially in the US, is unlikely to subside. Religion continues to play a large role in society, regardless of whether people are religious or which God, if any, they pray to. A balance needs to be reached so that the right to religious freedom and the right to health care is not hindered on either side.
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