Catholic Medical Association Applauds HHS, OCR Action To Protect Patients’ Right To Religious Freedom

Jill Blumenfeld
2020-10-23

October 23, 2020- The Catholic Medical Association stands in support of The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Department of Health and Human Services for their swift action to ensure COVID-19 positive patients can exercise religious freedom while in the hospital.

"Our commitment to defend the dignity of life recognizes the spiritual and physical dimensions of health. Care of patients goes beyond just the medical and includes spiritual care necessary for healing,” said Dr. Michael Parker, CMA President.

"Treating patients means treating them body, mind and spirit. Patients who are battling COVID-19- and their families- deserve access to clergy and religious leaders who can provide spiritual and sacramental care important to their faith during times of great need," added Dr. Parker.

OCR and HHS recently announced resolution to two matters (https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2020/10/20/ocr-resolves-religious-discrimination-complaints-after-maryland-and-virginia-hospitals-ensure.html), one involving a new mother who tested positive for COVID-19, was separated from her newborn son and denied access to have a priest come baptize the baby. The second, a COVID-19 positive patient, in an end-of-life- situation, was denied access to receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion and Anointing of the Sick.

“It is heartening to know that the two health care systems in Maryland and Virginia have positively responded to HHS/OCR directive. I pray that all health systems throughout the U.S. will respond likewise in order to uphold a patient’s right to receive religious, sacramental, and pastoral care when a patient requests this,” said Rev. Matthew Gutowski, CMA National Chaplain.

"To successfully care for patients we must reasonably and compassionately address their case. Recognizing one's innate right to religious freedom and allowing patients to stand strong in their Faith- especially in vulnerable times, is critical to the healing process," said Dr. Parker.

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