By Sarah Mac Donald - 08 August, 2013
One of the country’s top Catholic hospitals may be gearing up to challenge the Government over the lack of any opt out in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill for institutions whose ethos is contravened by the provision of abortion.
While the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital in Dublin does not yet have a formal position on the legislation, two members of its board of directors have already signalled their concern.
On Tuesday, Sr Eugene Nolan, a nurse tutor who is also a member of the Board of Directors, told the Irish Times that the situation facing the hospital is “very, very grave”.
She also suggested that the new legislation was “being imposed” on the hospital.
Her comments follow those of top cleric, Fr Kevin Doran, who is member of the hospital’s Board of Governors as well as its Board of Directors.
Fr Kevin Doran, who acted as Secretary General to last year’s International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, has already signalled his opposition to any attempt to force the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital go against its ethos.
He told the Irish Times that the Catholic voluntary hospital cannot carry out abortions because they are in breach of its ethos.
The Mater is a Catholic voluntary hospital, which is part-owned by the Sisters of Mercy. It was founded it in 1861, and is currently managed by a Board of Governors which are independent of the HSE.
The hospital is one of 25 appropriate institutions named in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill where abortions may be carried out to save the life of a pregnant woman.
Under the act’s provisions, institutions such as the Mater do not enjoy the right to opt out of such procedures on the grounds of conscientious objection or because abortion is contrary to its ethos.
The Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly has publicly stated that the 25 appropriate institutions will be expected to carry out abortions.
“All institutions mentioned in the legislation are funded by the taxpayer. We could not have a situation where a service funded by the taxpayer could deprive a citizen of their rights. In those circumstances we see absolutely no indication or room for an institution to have a conscientious objection,” Dr Reilly said in June.
Fr Doran told the Irish Times that he would be very concerned if the Minister sees fit “to make it impossible for hospitals to have their own ethos.”
He warned that the issue is broader than just abortion. “What’s happening is the Minister is saying hospitals are not entitled to have an ethos,” Fr Doran said.
He indicated that should the hospital decide to comply with the legislation it would lead to a “very serious discussion” between the Archbishop of Dublin and the hospital’s management.
The Archdiocese of Dublin acts as a member of hospital’s parent company, along with the Sisters of Mercy, the Catholic Nurses Guild of Ireland, the Society of St Vincent de Paul and the medical consultants of the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and of the Children’s University Hospital in Temple Street.
Sr Eugene Nolan of the board of directors said abortion was against the hospital’s ethos. “The main thing is we have an obligation to preserve the ethos of the hospital and still try and do the best we can. [The legislation] will have to be looked at very carefully,” she said.
Venerable Catherine McAuley founded the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy in 1831. Visitation of the sick poor in their homes was one of the characteristic works of her Sisters from the beginning. Her aspiration to establish a hospital became a reality when the Mater Misericordiae Hospital officially opened in September 1861.
The Mater Misericordiae University Hospital is committed to healing the sick, regardless of class, creed, or nationality.
The hospital’s vision and ethos are enshrined in its Mission Statement which pledges to “respect the dignity of human life”.
By Sarah Mac Donald