Crucial Victory Compels New York Hospital to Respect Rights of Conscience

Some victories, as I often tell you, are especially sweet.

You may remember a cover story from our Truth & Triumph magazine that focused on the tragic experience of Cathy DeCarlo, a highly respected OR nurse at the renowned Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.  Despite a written agreement with hospital administrators exempting her from participating in abortions, she was compelled to assist with one or risk losing her job and her license.

Ms. DeCarlo’s experience is perfect example of the growing pressures being exerted on health care professionals nationwide to submit their conscience to the expediencies of a medical culture increasingly de-sensitized to the sanctity of life. If you or your friends are working in the medical field – or if your children or grandchildren are contemplating such a career – her case has enormous implications for what lies ahead.

A newly completed U.S. Department of Health and Human Services investigation of Mount Sinai by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights has determined that the hospital was out of line in its treatment of Ms. DeCarlo. As a result, administrators are being required to implement extensive policy and procedural changes designed to ensure that

medical personnel are not forced to participate in abortions.

These changes are in addition to a new policy Mount Sinai had already adopted after Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a federal lawsuit on Ms. DeCarlo’s behalf in 2009, shortly before requesting the HHS investigation. Our attorneys then filed a state lawsuit to protect Cathy, which is still ongoing.

The revised policy states: “It is the legal right of any individual to refuse to participate in these procedures.” That policy applies whether the abortion is classified as an elective or emergency procedure, and provides a process for “alternative coverage” if a staff member opts not to participate. Now, at the recommendation of HHS investigators, the hospital has agreed to:

a)      abide by federal conscience protection laws,

b)      train employees about those laws,

c)      teach staff how to record who does and doesn’t object to participating in abortions, and

d)     update its Human Resource policy to state that the hospital will not engage in any form of employment discrimination based on an employee’s refusal to participate in an abortion.

“Pro-life medical personnel shouldn’t be forced to participate in abortions, and the new policies and procedures at Mt. Sinai reflect that,” says Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “The hospital seems to have decided to do the right thing and respect the conscience rights of its employees, who are protected by both federal and state law. We will continue to monitor the situation to make sure that the new policy is followed.”

Joseph Ruta, one of nearly 2,200 Allied Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, serves as lead counsel in this lawsuit, which is still ongoing. Please be in prayer for him and Ms. DeCarlo, whose outstanding courage and persistence is now reaping important legal dividends for other medical professionals all over the country, who refuse to compromise their conscience or their religious convictions in the face of an often hostile medical establishment.

Author: Alan Sears