Trustees at Catholic hospital delay decision on Cardinal's new Code of Ethics

 The Trustees of the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth, in St John's Wood, north London have said they need more time to consider issues raised by the proposed new Code of Ethics prepared for the board at the request of the hospital's patron, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor ordered the code to be revised in 2005, after it was reported that some GPs at the hospital had been prescribing the morning-after pill and referring patients for abortions. This would be clearly ruled out under the new code. An amniocentesis procedure to detect Down's syndrome in unborn children and provision of IVF services would also not be allowed. In a letter to hospital chairman Robin Bridgeman, the Cardinal said: "There must be clarity that the hospital, being a Catholic hospital with a distinct vision of what is truly in the interests of human persons, cannot offer its patients, non-Catholic or Catholic, the whole range of services routinely accepted by many in modern secular society as being in a patient's best interest." The Trustees' statement from yesterday's meeting follows: 'The Trustees of the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth, London at their board meeting today received legal advice and discussed the options available, following difficulties arising from a proposed revised Code of Ethics, prepared for the board at the request of the hospital's current patron, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. 'The Trustees agreed unanimously that they were under a duty, as trustees of a charitable entity, to undertake further evaluation of the legal and practical implications of the options under consideration before they would be in a position to make a fully informed decision regarding the basis on which the hospital should continue to operate. 'It was therefore decided that further professional research and assessment would be undertaken for the consideration of the board at its next meeting. 'In the meantime, the hospital and its associated hospice will continue to adhere to its existing Code of Ethics and provide the excellent services for which they are both renowned.' Speaking after the meeting yesterday, Lord Bridgeman, chairman of the board, said: "There has been a certain amount of ill-informed speculation about the hospital of late, but we are very mindful of our duties as charity trustees with obligations to all those who use the hospital to think very carefully about any changes which are made to the way the hospital operates. We are, therefore, seeking expert professional advice and will weigh up the legality and viability of the options before us conscientiously before we take any final decisions. Meanwhile, all who use and work in the hospital should be confident that we will continue to put the needs of our patients first and foremost and provide the high quality care for which we are rightly famous." St John's & St Elizabeth's was founded in 1856 by the Sisters of Mercy, who worked with Florence Nightingale in the Crimean war. As an independent private hospital and registered charity, patients pay fees for treatment. Its surplus profits are used to support one of London's largest hospices, St John's Hospice, offering care free of charge to patients living in the local community, with life threatening illnesses. Source: SJSE/ICN

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