The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has come under attack from medical organisations for putting pressure on a private Catholic hospital to introduce a new code of ethics, the Independent reported this weekend.
In 2006 Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, who is patron of the St John and St Elizabeth hospital in north London, ordered the hospital to devise a new code of ethics that would be more in tune with the Catholic stance on abortion and contraception. The code was introduced last December, triggering several resignations from the hospital's board. The Cardinal has now asked all members of the old board to resign "in light of the recent difficulties" in order to enable the new chairman Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank "to begin his office with the freedom to go about ensuring the future well-being of this Catholic hospital."
The British Medical Association has publicly criticised the Cardinal's actions, pointing out that they would mean staff at the hospital would be forced to follow two contradictory codes of ethics – as well as the Catholic code doctors would still be obliged to adhere to the General Medical Council's code, which states that doctors must not let their own beliefs interfere with the care of patients.
Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the BMA, told the Independent: "It really does put doctors in a very difficult position. We don't believe they can follow two codes of ethics."