Press release issued 26 May: embargoed until 12:00 h [updated 15:30 h]
A Holy Mess!
Why is the National Maternity Hospital being co-located at the St. Vincent’s University Hospital campus? Why not at another tertiary teaching hospital location not under overt religious control?
Dick Spicer and his son, Norman, believe that the State is acting improperly in funding the move of the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) to the St. Vincent’s University Hospital (SVUH) campus. They have decided to challenge this decision in the High Court.
Dick and Norman are both angry and dismayed at being put in the situation whereby they have to seek remedy, at law, for the failure of politicians to live up to their obligations under the Constitution. That a pensioner and a young married man (hoping in time to avail of the maternity services of the state) should have to take it upon themselves to undertake this action is a sad commentary on our republic. The proposed siting of the NMH on the SVUH campus is a gross example of political failure. It is almost impossible to believe, given the past history of Church-State dealings and the damage caused to thousands of women that this proposal could emerge from a government which knows the many negative outcome from church control of health care in the area of reproductive rights. Savita Halapanaver’s death should have given the Minister for Health and the Cabinet good pause for thought.
We hope that this action of ours will focus politicians’ minds on the absurdity of the proposed location with a Roman Catholic religious order firmly in control of the entire campus and with healthcare professional staff required to conform to a medical ethics code informed by Canon law precepts. We hope that this action will lead to a genuine re-think of how the co-location is to be organised. What we would like to emerge from today is the clear understanding that there are viable alternatives to the SVUH site, which has the same advantages of co-location and none of the disadvantages, i.e. Tallaght or St. James’ Hospitals, which are both tertiary teaching hospitals with the essential gynaecology specialism. We are asking politicians and public to focus on this simple fact and spare us the burden we have felt obliged to shoulder by virtue of this action.
All taxpayers and citizens, especially those planning a family, should be concerned by the failure of the State to ensure that this huge investment be under direct State control. By gifting the Sisters of Charity with a capital asset of such magnitude they are abdicating responsibility for taxpayers’ funds and failing to protect to the utmost the rights of families in our State to have access to all procedures and therapies in reproductive medicine that are lawful in the State. Not only are they planning to place this asset and the health care staff under religious control and influence, they are boosting enormously the value of the existing site which is under the control of the Order.
The Sisters of Charity
The Sisters of Charity are of course fully entitled to follow the dictates of their religious conscience when controlling a medical facility. It is doubtful if they should avail of state funding to do so however. They are obliged to act according to Canon law in deciding which procedures now and in the future to permit in such an institution. It should be the case however that any State-funded facility be required to permit all procedures and therapies legal in the state to be performed there. This is not the case at present in SVUH and if the Order has a role on the governing board of the proposed NMH they will be obliged by their faith to seek to frustrate and impede any procedures or treatment they disagree with.
The Order requires all its medical and nursing staff to uphold a Roman Catholic medical ethics code informed by Canon law.
The proposed move of the NMH and the logic of Co-Location
By co-locating the NMH with a major tertiary teaching hospital the thinking is that patients of the NMH will have immediate access, if required, to the wide range of facilities and adult medical specialisms available at the SVUH facility and hence patients, especially in a medical emergency, will benefit. Other benefits, like access to clinical laboratory facilities and research laboratories, will also accrue to the NMH. However it is precisely in such emergency situations that the chilling effect of a religious medical ethic may manifest itself.
Thus proposing to place the NMH on the SVUH site is impossible to square with a desire to have an independent State-funded facility in a position to deliver medical care in keeping with the laws of the land into the future. Even if the Order was to be excluded entirely from the board of the NMH, by placing patients in a situation where health and well-being could be at risk in an emergency, due to the particular religious beliefs of the Sisters of Charity who would still be in control of the SVUH, the state is failing in its constitutional obligations to its citizens.
We conclude, by asking any and all TDs who are keeping this government in office to immediately reconsider their position and insist that this shameful abdication of responsibility be abandoned and that the proposed NMH be sited instead at another tertiary teaching hospital with appropriate specialisms and not subject to Canon law interference in health care workers’ contracts.
Dick Spicer: is a married 70 year old pensioner and grandfather. He co-founded the Campaign to Separate Church and State in the 80’s and lodged a legal case against the State over its’ failure to safeguard taxpayers funds over the sale of Carysfort Teacher Training College. His action was instrumental in forcing the Sisters of Mercy to repay two and a quarter million in funds and equipment to the state. He subsequently founded the Humanist Association and played a significant role in the divorce referendum.
Norman Spicer: is a 30 year old married man, former New York litigation attorney and recent ex-soldier of the Irish Defence Forces. He has served in the Irish army over a period of 12 years during which time he also performed peace keeping duties in central Africa.
He recently discharged (honorably) from the Defence Forces and has at all times had an exemplary conduct record. He is currently a full-time student at University College Dublin on a master of laws program. He resides in Bray, Co. Wicklow.
Dick Spicer: 086-609 5799
Crowd-Funding details https://www.ifundraise.ie/3257_autonomy-in-maternity-care.html
Updates will be posted on the www.cscs.ie web-site