When there's a heartbeat: miscarriage management in Catholic-owned hospitals

Am J Public Health. 2008 Oct;98(10):1774-8. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2007.126730. Epub 2008 Aug 13.


As Catholic-owned hospitals merge with or take over other facilities, they impose restrictions on reproductive health services, including abortion and contraceptive services. Our interviews with US obstetrician-gynecologists working in Catholic-owned hospitals revealed that they are also restricted in managing miscarriages. Catholic-owned hospital ethics committees denied approval of uterine evacuation while fetal heart tones were still present, forcing physicians to delay care or transport miscarrying patients to non-Catholic-owned facilities. Some physicians intentionally violated protocol because they felt patient safety was compromised. Although Catholic doctrine officially deems abortion permissible to preserve the life of the woman, Catholic-owned hospital ethics committees differ in their interpretation of how much health risk constitutes a threat to a woman's life and therefore how much risk must be present before they approve the intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous / therapy*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Cardiotocography / ethics
  • Catholicism*
  • Communication
  • Emergencies
  • Ethics Committees, Clinical / ethics
  • Ethics Committees, Clinical / organization & administration
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Hospitals, Religious / ethics*
  • Hospitals, Religious / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / ethics*
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Obstetrics / ethics
  • Obstetrics / organization & administration
  • Organizational Policy
  • Patient Selection / ethics
  • Patient Transfer / ethics
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Qualitative Research
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Vacuum Curettage / ethics*