Imagine being pregnant and going to the hospital when your water breaks -- at only 18 weeks along. The hospital sends you home, but you return twice because you're in "excruciating pain." Finally, you miscarry your baby. No one ever told you that your baby had no chance of surviving or that your life was in danger. No one ever offered you any options. That's reportedly what happened to a Michigan woman who is now suing U.S. Catholic bishops over the Catholic-run hospital's treatment of her.
Tamesha Means says, "They never offered me any options. They didn't tell me what was happening." Mercy Health Partners has strict religious directives that forbid it from performing abortions -- and apparently the staff is reluctant to even suggest that it could be an option elsewhere. So it makes me wonder, how much do we really know about our hospitals? There may be some questions you should get answered before you assume you'll get proper medical care.
1. Is your hospital run by a religious entity? I have to admit, this question has never even occurred to me when it comes to choosing a hospital. I'm not planning on getting an abortion, so ... what does it matter? It matters if the staff interprets religious directives in a way that conflicts with your care.
More from The Stir: 1 Important Thing Every Pregnant Woman Needs to Ensure a Healthy Baby
2. Is your hospital prohibited from discussing abortion as an option? It's not just that many hospitals cannot or will not perform an abortion. Some will not even mention it as a possibility, even if your baby has no chance or survival -- and even if carrying your baby could put your life in peril.
3. What is your hospital's policy when it learns your baby is not thriving and/or has put your life or health at risk? For example, will they tell you if your pregnancy turns out to be ectopic? Better find this out before you show up there, even just a few weeks into your pregnancy. I think most of us would at least like to know that there is a serious problem, and then we can think about what our options are.
4. If your medical condition forces the hospital to prioritize either your health or your baby's health, which do they choose? Hopefully you'll never be in that situation -- and if you are, the hospital will do everything it can to help you both. But it happens, and you should at least know what the hospital's priorities are. There should be no surprises here.
I'm not saying that Catholic hospitals are run by people with no regard for women's health, or that all hospitals should be willing to perform abortions. I'm just saying that you should have as much information as possible to make the right choice for you and your baby. That shouldn't be decided for you. Means was going to lose her baby regardless -- but she should have at least been told what was happening.
Do you think Tamesha Means is right to sue the hospital that treated her?
Image via John Fedele/Blend Images/Corbis