Question 66



7)   Catholic Doctors and Nurses 

The life issues belong to doctors and nurses in a special manner.  These professionals deal directly with bodily life and fostering human health.   People naturally look to them for good guidance in matters of biological life and health.  Thus it is imperative that they be actively engaged in the pro-life movement, and become active artisans of the culture of life.  They should be the natural allies of the pro-life movement. 

The reality is that many Catholic doctors reflect the values of their secular society instead of their faith.  Some clear examples of this are contraception and sterilization.  In the USA, only one percent of Catholic ob/gyns and family practice doctors are completely pro-life, which means that they refuse to prescribe contraception, perform sterilizations, use immoral methods of overcoming infertility, or make referrals to those who will.  The other 99 percent are contributing to the problem.   

This discrepancy becomes glaringly evident when a Catholic couple is faced with the contradiction between what the Church teaches about contraception and what their local Catholic doctor prescribes.  The typical couple will reason, “If my doctor, who is a devout Catholic, prescribes the Pill, and he is the medical professional, then why should the Church be against it?” And many couples follow the lead of the doctors.  Nor are these contradictions addressed from the pulpit. 

Most Catholic physicians do not understand the Church’s teaching on contraception and sterilization.  They never took comprehensive courses in medical ethics, aside from the secularized versions they found in state medical schools that justify contemporary trends.  Most Catholic doctors do not understand NFP, or how medically sophisticated it has become, or how superior Naprotechnology (natural procreative technology) is to other forms of overcoming infertility problems. 

There are several major deterrents to the conversion of Catholic doctors from prescribing contraception to endorsing NFP.  The first of these is financial.  There is no profit to be made in encouraging NFP, which requires several classes to learn the method, and then no further expense.  Placing their signature on regular prescriptions for the Pill, on the other hand, generates a steady income, sometimes accounting for 30-40% of a doctor’s income.  Many Catholic doctors are terrified at the thought of losing this percentage of their income. 

A second deterrent is the time factor.  It requires time to help a couple learn their physiology, to chart their cycles, and to accurately interpret the signals the body gives of approaching fertility.  Problems with irregular cycles will require consultations.  All this is very helpful in promoting sexual and reproductive health, but it is time consuming and without financial gains. 

A third deterrent is the pressure upon doctors to conform to the conventional norms of the medical profession. Pharmaceuticals place enormous pressure upon doctors to sell their products that are very lucrative.  Planned Parenthood and radical feminists push hard for easy access to “reproductive health,” and “safe sex,” which includes contraception and abortion.  Professional medical societies accept these pressures and make them part of their professional policy.  Medical schools accept these disvalues, and rigorously enforce them in their curriculum of courses. 

The financial factor (making profits) should not be allowed to override the moral factor.  But this will only change when Catholic doctors, and nurses, are given the rationale that supports the Church’s teaching about medical ethics.  Some dioceses are successfully reaching out to their doctors by providing regular (annual, or semi-annual) gatherings for their medical personnel.  A bishop will send out invitations to all the doctors and nurses for an evening gathering with a light desert.  The bishop speaks to them and encourages the doctors and nurses to become effective artisans of the culture of life.  Then a medical doctor makes a presentation on a pertinent medical topic, and explains the Church’s rationale that supports the relevant moral principles.  Objections and questions are answered.  Consciences are informed.  Conversions of mind and heart are encouraged. 

These gatherings, in effect, are classes in medical ethics.  They are the most effective way to bring our Catholic doctors and nurses back into the service of God’s plan for human life, sexual health, and the reality that we are all bodied-persons.  Without the support of our own medical personnel, it is unrealistic to expect the culture of death to be challenged.