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Nun Excommunicated for Saving a Woman's Life

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An Arizona nun has been excommunicated for approving an abortion for a fatally ill patient, instead of letting God decide if the woman deserved to die, I guess:

A Catholic nun and longtime administrator of St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix was reassigned in the wake of a decision to allow a pregnancy to be ended in order to save the life of a critically ill patient.

The decision also drew a sharp rebuke from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, head of the Phoenix Diocese, who indicated the woman was "automatically excommunicated" because of the action.

[...]

The actions involving the administrator, mostly taken within the past couple of weeks, followed a last-minute, life-or-death drama in late 2009. The patient had a rare and often fatal condition in which a pregnancy can cause the death of the mother.

Sister Margaret McBride, who had been vice president of mission integration at the hospital, was on call as a member of the hospital's ethics committee when the surgery took place, hospital officials said. She was part of a group of people, including the patient and doctors, who decided upon the course of action. (Arizona Republic)

Catholic hospitals are run according to medical directives handed down by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (an organization so concerned with patients' wellbeing they tried to sink health reform to help out the GOP) and approved by the Vatican. The AZ Republic article points to the rules pertaining to this case, and unsurprisingly they are wildly irrational: abortion is never allowed, even to save the life of the mother. BUT, if the fetus is aborted while the mother undergoes an unrelated treatment everything's cool, even if the procedure is very likely to lead to a miscarriage and everyone knows it (the example they give is radiation for uterine cancer).

Looks like making decisions that can kill someone you can see is tougher than handing down dangerous, anachronistic rules from very far away? (a dynamic that also plays out in the developing world -- in Africa, for example, nuns and priests who work with HIV/AIDS victims have protested the Vatican's stance against condoms).

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