Dear Pro-life Friend,
I have been informed by a priest from Barbara Ciccone's parish that she did indeed die on Friday, February 6th. This person is in a position to know for a fact that this happened. (Barbara is the woman I emailed you about earlier this weekend who seemed to be in danger of starvation in a NJ Catholic hospital.)
Terrie and I are now working with a lawyer who will investigate this matter further with Bishop Serratelli to discover whether anything immoral occurred in Barbara's hospice care and death. We are now asking people to refrain from contacting the bishop's office until we go through the official channels.
Thank you for caring. God bless you, and may God give Barbara the rest and peace that she so greatly deserves. In Christ,Rebecca O'Keefe
A dear colleague of ours, Rebecca O’Keefe of LifeNet, requests our prayer and involvement in this heart wrenching matter.
Another dear colleague, Rich Collier of the Legal center for the Defense of Life has intervened on behalf of this woman.
----- Original Message -----
From: rebecca o'keefe
Sent: Saturday, February 07, 2009 2:32 PM
Subject: UPDATE: URGENT! Disabled Woman in danger of starvation at NJ Catholic hospital
Dear Pro-life Friend,
I am writing this to you because I know that you care about the cause of life, for both the unborn and the born.
As I write, a 50 year-old disabled woman named Barbara Ciccone is apparently being denied food in a Catholic hospital, St. Josephʼs, in Wayne, N.J. A friend of hers, Terrie Davis, who visits her regularly noticed that her feeding through a feeding tube had been removed on Saturday, January 31 or Sunday, February 1st.
She is in the hospice floor of the hospital. She was moved there from the hospital floor where she was originally. It is important to note that Barbara is not in any imminent danger of dying naturally. There really is no reason to put her in a hospice, which is a place for people who have terminal illnesses and are preparing for death.
The hospice is owned by Hospice of N.J., a non-Catholic organization, and the space is leased from the hospital. According to the contract that Hospice of N.J. signed with the hospital, they must abide by Catholic ethics in their treatment of patients.
After Terrie Davis contacted the Legal Center for the Defense of Life and the diocese, the exchange that follows at the bottom of this email happened. (This email was sent by Rich Collier, a lawyer from the Legal Center and also contains a link that details Catholic guidelines on nutrition and hydration for disabled people).
The hospice says that they have replaced the feeding tube for Barbara, but another friend who visited her on Thursday, February 5th, and saw her briefly, canʼt verify that feeding has resumed.
On Friday, February 6th, I called Bishop Arthur Serratelliʼs office to ask him to investigate this case, and was told that Barbara died. The next day, her friend Terrie called St. Josephʼs Hospital on a hunch that Barbara had not died, and that someone is just trying to get rid of inquiries.
The receptionist put her through to Barbaraʼs room. This means that either the receptionist is very ill-informed, or that the hospital / hospice is lying and Barbara is alive.
We do not know for sure if Barbara is being fed or is alive, so hereʼs what you can do:
1. Call Bishop Serratelliʼs office and respectfully ask that he immediately investigate Barbaraʼs case with St. Josephʼs. The number for the bishopʼs office is (973) 777-8818. (ed.note: email the Bishop: firstname.lastname@example.org)
2. Call St. Josephʼs Hospital in Wayne and respectfully ask that they uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church with regards to medical ethics and insure that Barbara is being fed. Phone # is (973) 942-6900.
3. Call the Hospice of N.J. and respectfully ask that they keep the contract that they have with St. Josephʼs Hospital to uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church with regards to medical ethics and insure that Barbara is being fed. Phone # is (973) 893-0818.
4. Call the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, the order of nuns who run St. Josephʼs and respectfully ask them to insure that Barbara is being fed in their hospital. Phone # is (973) 290-5345.
5. Send Barbara a card or note to tell her that you are praying for her and are concerned about her welfare. The address is:
Hospice of N.J.
St. Josephʼs Wayne Hospital
224 Hamburg Turnpike
Wayne, N.J. 07470
If enough people call and write we may be able to insure that Barbara receives the respect that she deserves as a disabled person in a Catholic hospital. Please, call now to prevent her possible death from starvation and dehydration.
In Christ, Rebecca OʼKeefe
On Thu, 2/5/09, Richard F. Collier, Jr., Esq.
A Catholic hospital in Wayne, NJ has withdrawn nutrition and hydration from a 50-year-old Catholic woman, and the woman has been starving to death since Sunday. It is absolutely clear under the teaching of the Church that patients should not be deprived of nutrition and hydration -- the recent statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was approved by Pope Benedict, appears at:
On Tuesday, the starving woman's friend, Terrie Davis, contacted Priests for Life, the Alliance Defense Fund, and Life Legal Defense Foundation, and they contacted me because I am the President of the Legal Center for the Defense of Life, here in New Jersey. When I learned of the situation on Tuesday night, I immediately contacted the Diocese of Paterson (Bishop Arthur Serratelli is the bishop).
Our e-mail exchanges appear below. Because the Diocese does not appear to be responding to me, our only recourse is to publicize this situation and bring pressure on the Diocese to do the right thing.
Terrie Davis can be reached at: 201-599-1332. I can be reached at 609-924-2213. Thank you!
1. To Dr. Mary Mazzarella, director of the Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Paterson, and Kenneth J. Mullaney, Jr., General Counsel of the Diocese:
I understand that you advised Terrie Davis that nothing can be done about the patient at St. Joseph's Wayne Hospital who has been deprived of nutrition and hydration since Sunday. The patient's name is Barbara Ciccone, and she was in an accident 14 years ago. She has been conscious, but cannot speak.
Until Sunday, she was on a feeding tube. She was at a nursing home until about 2 weeks ago, but was moved to the hospital with abdominal pain. Terrie reports that Barbara was breathing normally and that her pain had subsided, but all of a sudden her treatment was changed on Saturday night or Sunday morning.
Whatever her problem may be, there is no justification for removing nutrition and hydration, if that in fact has happened. The statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on this subject can be found at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070801_risposte-usa_en.html .
As for whether the Diocese can do anything, the hospital is a Catholic institution within your Diocese and therefore is subject to the authority of the Bishop. As stated in section 116 of Veritatis Splendor:
A particular responsibility is incumbent upon Bishops with regard to Catholic institutions. Whether these are agencies for the pastoral care of the family or for social work, or institutions dedicated to teaching or health care, Bishops can canonically erect and recognize these structures and delegate certain responsibilities to them.
Nevertheless, Bishops are never relieved of their own personal obligations. It falls to them, in communion with the Holy See, both to grant the title "Catholic" to Church-related schools, universities, health-care facilities and counselling services, and, in cases of a serious failure to live up to that title, to take it away.
If this patient has been deprived of nutrition and hydration, the hospital should be instructed to stand down until the Diocese has an opportunity to investigate what is going on and whether it is in conformity with the teaching of the Church.
2. To Patrick Brannigan, Executive Director, NJ Catholic Conference:
I don't know how to reach any of these people at night, and this matter is urgent. Can you do something to get through to them? The teaching of the Church on nutrition and hydration could not be clearer -- the Pope himself approved the strong statement mentioned below -- but Catholic hospitals continue to defy it.
I hope that is not the case here, but we won't know unless someone from the Diocese demands to know what is going on at the hospital. I cannot believe that Bishop Serratelli himself would say "we can't do anything" without checking out the situation first.
I also cannot believe that, if he finds a situation contrary to the teaching of the Church, he would turn a blind eye to it. He has the authority, canonical and moral, to instruct a Catholic hospital on how to handle this type of situation, so it should be brought to his attention immediately.
3. To Mazzarella and Mullaney:
Additional information: the hospital is taking the position that Hospice is separate from the hospital, so the hospital is not responsible for starving Barbara to death. This is pure sophistry. The hospital is implementing an indisputably immoral "treatment" strategy, and thus is directly participating in it.
The patient cannot talk but is able to communicate. Her friend of 10 years, Terrie Davis, is certain that, if asked, Barbara will say that she does NOT want to be starved to death. As a matter of law, the patient's desire overrides any direction the hospital has received from a health-care proxy.
It is imperative that someone independent go to the hospital and ask Barbara what her wishes are. If she replies that she does not want to be starved, the hospital MUST honor her wishes. But even if she says that she does want to be starved to death, no Catholic institution can implement her wishes.
At a time when many bishops are fighting FOCA by focusing on the conscience rights of Catholic institutions, the last thing we need is the highly public scandal that will result when widespread publicity reveals that a Catholic hospital is starving a Catholic woman to death in direct violation of Catholic teaching on the removal of nutrition and hydration.
Because this case involves a Catholic institution, it is worse than the Terrri Schiavo situation. The Diocese needs to intervene before the situation gets out of hand.
4. From Mullaney:
Mr. Collier, Thank you for your e mail. I am looking into the situation.
5. To Mullaney:
Thanks! Please let me know if you need any help.
6. From Mullaney [40 minutes after No. 4 above]:
Mr. Collier, Our Right to Life Coordinator, Dr. Mary Mazzarella, MD, has already spoken to Ms. Davis. I can tell you from past experience that St. Joseph's Hospital has a very strong Committee on Ethics that adheres to Catholic teaching and doctrine. Until I know more, I'm not prepared to conclude that our teachings are not being followed in this case. Thanks, Ken
7. To Mullaney:
I agree that until you know more, you should not reach any conclusion. But you will not know more unless and until you ask the hospital. There is more than enough probable cause to require this. No one is asking for a conclusion about Catholic teaching until the investigation is completed. But it will be too late after Barbara is dead.
8. From Mullaney [12:46 PM yesterday]:
I am waiting for a number of call backs from the hospital.
9. To Mullaney [this morning]:
Are you still waiting? Barbara is waiting to be fed.
Jill Stanek writes:
Breaking news: Woman [no longer] being starved/dehydrated to death at NJ Catholic hospital has died
2/6, 11:35a: Just received this note, forwarded by Rich Collier:
I just called Bishop Serratelli's office and was informed that Barbara Ciccone died this morning. The secretary said the Bishop was informed of the situation and was taking action.
UPDATE, 2/6, 5:15a: I've read some comments skeptical that this was a crisis to begin with. Additional thoughts...
The Diocese did not respond "immediately." On the contrary, officials told Terrie Davis on Tuesday they could do nothing. On Wednesday, their initial response to Richard Collier was the same: Based on their past experience, they assumed the hospital was following Catholic teaching, and therefore they were not going to interfere....
It was only after Rich's repeated prodding that they agreed to investigate further, and even then they did not respond to him until he publicized the matter yesterday and started getting numerous calls and protests. (Thanks!)
Most importantly, since when is a patient placed in hospice for abdominal pain? And it is a fact Barbara was moved to the hospice floor. (And yes, the hospice contracts half a floor from the hospital, but that is no excuse for the hospital to allow it to kill people if it wishes. The hospital would not contract half a floor to Planned Parenthood.)
Re: "feedings... placed on hold," Terrie began marking the can of Ensure in Barbara's room Sunday. The can remained untouched the last time she was allowed to see Barbara on Tuesday. At the very least a constant IV slow drip of water and electrolytes should have been initiated. Terrie said Barbara's IV was removed when she was moved to hospice.
I agree there is a lot we don't know.
But the bottom line is Terrie's "feedings have resumed due to a change in the patient's condition." Would they have been resumed had Terrie not been moved to seek help for her friend? We'll never know.
But thank God for friends like Terrie, legal interveners like Rich Collier, and pro-lifers who light a PR fire like you.
And this entire matter spotlights the fear of the culture of death permeating our society not only at the beginning stages of life but now at the end.
The latest news:
Sat/ Febr 7th 4:40pm: "I just phoned the hospital (973) 942-6900 and asked for Barbara Ciccone. When switched to the hospice floor I was told that the family was not there. I mentioned that I received an email that Ms. Ciccone had died. The woman would neither confirm nor deny this.
She said 'I'm very sorry' and the call ended. Dean"
Rebecca O'Keefe writes 'Terrie was barred on Wednesday from seeing Barbara any more because she was asking too many questions. All non-family members have been barred from seeing her. Our only hope now is for someone from the Diocese of Paterson to demand to see her.
The best thing to do now is to leave a message with Bishop Serratelli's office and ask them to investigate this: is Barbara truly dead? what is going on? A sister in Christ is suffering and we would like some answers as to her care. Also, you can email him through www.patersondiocese.org/forms/bcontact.cfm.
A Catholic deacon called around 2:00 p.m. and they said there was no patient by that name there. This is getting very interesting. Something is very fishy!!!'