Campaign group calls on Rome to stop hospital ethics code
PUBLISHED: 10:17 04 November 2008 | UPDATED: 15:33 07 September 2010
By Josie Hinton CATHOLIC campaigners are taking their battle over the new code of ethics at St John and St Elizabeth Hospital to the Holy Office in Rome. The leading Catholic hospital in St John s Wood introduced the code earlier this month, allowing GPs
By Josie Hinton
CATHOLIC campaigners are taking their battle over the new code of ethics at St John and St Elizabeth Hospital to the Holy Office in Rome.
The leading Catholic hospital in St John's Wood introduced the code earlier this month, allowing GPs to prescribe oral contraception and hand out condoms.
The hospital's board of trustees hoped the statement would put an end to divisions after months of controversy and a series of resignations.
But despite winning support from the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the move has incensed Catholic campaigning group Restituta, which is leading opposition to the new code.
Members are now appealing to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - which oversees Catholic doctrine - to determine if the hospital is going against its constitution.
Mark Thomas, a spokesman for St John and St Elizabeth, said the objections were misguided as abortion referrals were not laid out in the code, which states: "Doctors and other staff are presumed to be of goodwill and good conscience. The confidentiality of their consultations with patients must be respected as must the confidentiality of the advice which they offer to patients in accordance with their professional and legal obligation.
"The hospital, however, cannot condone or permit practices in its name which conflict with Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life or respect for the human person.
"Questions of uncertainty about this teaching should be put to the ethics committee, which is a sub-committee of the board of trustees. The committee is advised by experts and medical professionals."
Nicolas Bellord, secretary of Restituta, said: "Having seen the new code we are totally at a loss as to how it can be seen to be adequate in terms of the teaching of the church or how it could have been approved in this way.
"Referrals for abortion are co-operation in evil and clearly forbidden in Evangelium Vitae and numerous other statements by the church.
"In view of this we are going to make a formal request to Rome to enquire whether the promulgation of this new code of ethics can be seen to be in accordance with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, as is required by the constitution of the hospital."
But Mr Thomas said: "This complaint is completely misguided. It has been asserted that because the hospital's statement of ethics makes no mention of referrals for abortion, such referrals are permitted at the hospital.
"This is not the case. In the statement it is clearly noted that the absence of a reference to a particular practice or statement does not imply that it is permissible."
The code, written by former MI6 counter-terrorism chief Sir Mark Allen, was welcomed by family planning groups and won support from the Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor.