Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A credentialing tale

A prominent Boston doctor and Harvard Medical School professor says a prestigious hospital canned him because he refused to endorse the LGBT lifestyle, which he believes is dangerous and unhealthy.

Dr. Paul Church clashed with officials at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for years over the issue, bitterly opposing the hospital's policy of promoting such events as Gay Pride Week and "LGBT Achievement" awards ceremonies. The hospital's stance ignored overwhelming evidence that practices common in the LGBT increase the risk of disease and mental illness, according to Church, a Cornell-trained urologist who worked at the hospital for 28 years.

"They chose a social agenda that they wanted to promote," said Church, who likened a hospital holding a gay pride event to the same institution organizing an event to promote cigarette smoking.
Church, 66, appeared to run out of options last month when the hospital's 25-member medical executive committee voted to expel him.

The hospital said in a statement to that Church's behavior was "inconsistent with BIDMC's established standards of professional conduct."

"Because this is a medical staff credentialing matter, we do not plan to comment further," the statement said.

Church said he was wrongfully removed and that his performance and relationship with patients were never an issue. He acknowledged sending provocative emails to hospital officials, which he said were aimed at fostering dialogue but were met with hostility.

In one 2009 email -- in a response to a BIDMC’s 16th annual LGBT Achievement Award ceremony invitation -- Church citied evidence that he said is “irrefutable.”
“Behaviors common within the homosexual community are unhealthy and high risk for a host of serious medical consequences, including STDs, HIV and AIDS, anal cancer, hepatitis, parasitic intestinal infections, and psychiatric disorders,” his email said. “Life expectancy is significantly decreased as a result of HIV/AIDS, complications from the other health problems, and suicide.”
Church said he asked the hospital to stop sending him emails promoting LGBT culture and events, but he continued to receive them...

Richard Mast, his lawyer at the Liberty Council, said Church is out of options to get his job back with the hospital, but the ruling does not prevent him from practicing medicine. Church is still affiliated with two other hospitals and he also is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. He said if there is additional “collateral damage” he intends to fight back.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with other men have higher rates of HIV and STDs. For example, these men are 40 times more likely to be HIV-positive than heterosexual men.

“These numbers are not my opinion,” Church said....

Church pointed to his long career and “compassionate” and “respectful care” of dozens of patients who self identify as members of the LGBT community. He said at least one of his gay patients wrote a letter on his behalf during the investigation.

“I approach every patient with the same kind of care and dignity,” he said.

Dr. Jane M. Orient, an internist in Arizona and executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, has covered Church’s story and believes he was treated unfairly.

“From what I’ve read, the internal communication from Church has not been proven untrue,” she said. She said there is little doubt that gay sex between men has proven to be a risky lifestyle.

“It is not the role of a good doctor to lie to a patient and deny that there are inherent risks,” she said.


  1. After more than 10 years of tension and conflict over his hospital's institutional endorsement of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activities, urologist Paul Church lost his final appeal to the Board of Directors of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to reconsider the hospital's decision to expel him and terminate his medical privileges.

    That appeal was Church's last chance to stay at BIDMC in Boston. The board's final judgment in December dashed that hope -- and appeared to confirm the extent to which social ideologies have infected the nation's medical field.

    Church, a member of the BIDMC medical staff for 28 years and part of the adjoining Harvard Medical School faculty, received the news to uphold the expulsion via email.

    After conferring with his attorney at Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit law firm, he ultimately decided not to continue his battle in the Massachusetts judicial system.

    "We kind of reached a dead end," Church said, quickly adding God's "still on His job." Despite his initial disappointment, Church said he feels satisfaction that he did his best and "fought the good fight." From now on, it's up to God to continue the battle.

    For about a decade, Church was one of the lone voices among the BIDMC staff protesting the hospital's proactive agenda to promote the LGBT movement. As one of the nation's top health facilities and a major teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School, BIDMC ought to be more sensitive and responsible about the kind of sexual and moral behaviors it champions, Church argued through emails and intranet comments to his higher-ups and fellow staff members.

    He considers it an issue of both public health and freedom of expression for BIDMC staff members who hold a diversity of moral and religious values.

    "It's like a baby food company sponsoring an abortion company," Church told World News recently, still aghast at BIDMC's public endorsement of LGBT events such as the Boston Gay Pride Parade. "Or like having a cigarette advertisement on a medical journal. It makes no sense!"

    But BIDMC was more focused on his "offensive" and "unacceptable" words toward the gay community, rather than his medical concerns about the health consequences of LGBT activities or even his right to express personal beliefs. After several tense meetings with Church, a 25-member Medical Executive Committee made up of hospital staff voted on March 15 to expel him and revoke his medical privileges at the hospital. It also reported him to the Board of Registration in Medicine, which may affect his ability to renew his medical license in two years.

    So far, Church, now 66, has lost his position at two of the three hospitals in which he worked for nearly three decades with no official complaints from patients. The second hospital denied him reappointment, which is decided every two to three years, for no apparent reason other than his dispute with BIDMC. Church is up for reappointment at the third hospital in February, and he's bracing himself for another possible denial.

    Church has considered retirement, but he's unwilling to make that decision just because he's been "pushed out." He's now looking for other hospitals to accept him, and he recently joined a committee at the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (ATCSI), a professional organization made up of academics and health professionals who advocate for the right of religious belief and diversity for therapists and clients dealing with sexual orientation issues.

  2. Over the past decade, Church has voiced his concerns regarding BIDMC’s overt support of LGBT events.

    “In doing so, the medical center ignores and marginalizes opposing worldviews on morality and sexual behaviors often based on strong religious convictions that are represented within the diversity of its staff and larger community,” Church wrote in a statement he prepared for his hearing in February 2015. “Furthermore, it indicates a peculiar willingness to overlook high risk behaviors common to the LGBT community, which is contradictory to the larger mission of a healthcare institution to promote and model healthy choices and lifestyles.”

    According to Church’s testimony, after he was told that he would be subjected to an investigation if he did not resign, he received a “Letter of Reprimand” from a peer-review committee demanding that he discontinue “any further communications regarding [his] views on homosexuality.”

    Church called the aggressive letter a “gag rule” that assaulted his freedom of speech and violated his public and private rights under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act.

    He requested that he not receive the hospital’s emails promoting LGBT pride events, but when he continued to receive the notices more frequently, he continued to speak out.

    “Celebrating sexual perversions is highly inappropriate, especially in the context of a medical center that should be aware of the negative health consequences of high risk behaviors,” Church wrote in 2013.

    In September 2014, BIDMC launched a formal investigation. A 25-member Medical Executive Committee reviewed the findings and decided in March to expel Church for holding “unsolicited views about homosexuality that were offensive to BIDMC Staff” and for violating the hospital’s discrimination policy.

    Church appealed, but the panel upheld the expulsion in September. In a statement released in December, Church announced that a final ruling from the hospital’s Board of Directors had likewise upheld the decision.

    “Voicing medical facts, religious convictions, or traditional morality is now apparently punishable by dismissal, should a member of the staff claim to be offended by such views,” Church wrote. “While I am deeply disappointed in the outcome from these decisions, I feel that we have fought ‘the good fight’ and brought these valid concerns into the spotlight of the public arena.”

    He concluded the statement by voicing his “sincere regrets” that the BIDMC administration and directors “departed from the institution’s higher mission and calling to follow a highly controversial social agenda.”

    Church said that he intends to continue his medical practice elsewhere while striving to fulfill his professional duties “by advocating for healthy and moral choices.”

  3. A healing patient-physician relationship depends on mutual trust. Patients need to trust that their doctor is working for them. In the Oath of Hippocrates, doctors swear to prescribe “for the good of my patients,” to the best of “my ability and judgment.” Such a physician does not lie to patients or treat them in a way he believes will harm them. He does not reassure them that it is fine to do something he believes will lead to incurable disease, unhappiness, guilt, or early death.

    But what if a physician is working for a hospital and knows that he’ll lose his job or even his entire career if the employer is displeased? And what if the hospital lets insurers, government, or political advocacy groups control the message to patients?

    The case of Dr. Paul Church should alarm patients everywhere. Dr. Church just lost his final appeal of his expulsion from Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston. These days being expelled from any hospital medical staff for any reason can and probably will have a domino effect – loss of privileges at all other hospitals, removal from insurance panels, a report to the National Practitioner Data Bank that could foreclose all future employment opportunities, loss of board certification and even loss of medical license.

    Dr. Church, a urologist, had been on the medical staff for 28 years. Did anyone accuse him of incompetence? Did he throw a scalpel at a nurse? Was he impaired by alcohol or drug abuse? Did he humiliate, discriminate against, or harm anyone in any way? Did he make any statement the hospital disputed as untrue?

    No, to all of the above. His record was exemplary.(continued)

  4. (continued)The hospital clearly wants to make an example of him, to deter anyone else who might dare to act as he did. But not a very public example. There has been almost no news coverage of the story. Usually, when a doctor gets booted from a hospital, the press is all over the story. People love to read about the comeuppance of a successful doctor. But not this time.

    Apparently, both BIDMC and the press are themselves afraid – of backlash from the public, in the case of the hospital, or of the anger of a powerful political constituency, in the case of the press.

    So what was Dr. Church’s heinous, unmentionable crime?

    He told the truth – discreetly, through internal hospital communications channels. A truth that many on the hospital staff agreed with – silently.

    He protested the hospital’s pressuring its staff to support “gay pride” events. Uniformed members of BIDMC staff are pictured marching in the gay pride parade, along with people promoting sado-masochism, or displaying gear for bondage and domination, or showing children as sex objects.

    Dr. Church stated that such hospital policy contradicted its mission to protect the public welfare and to promote healthy, moral choices. He challenged the hospital to be honest about the unhealthy consequences of homosexual behavior and “respectful of the diversity of religious and moral views regarding homosexuality.” His quotation of a few verses from the Bible might have ultimately been the unforgivable sin.

    Unquestionably, men having sex with men, an activity that even has its own acronym now (MSM), have a much higher incidence of sexually transmitted diseases. Though AIDS is not the automatic death sentence it once was, infected individuals face a lifetime of costly, toxic drug treatment. The CDC recently reported that homosexual men, lesbians and bisexuals experience a much higher rate of sexual assault, including rape, by an intimate partner. Transgenders, vociferously insisting that they be considered normal, are simultaneously demanding insurance coverage for costly treatments, including lifelong hormone therapy.

    Can your physician, without fear for his career, tell you the truth about the risks of your behavior? Only if it involves smoking or drug use or something other than sex. Doctors are supposed to affirm the notion that the only problems facing LGBT patients are caused by societal disapproval. This gag on physicians must be enforced by totalitarian methods because reality is so hard to deny.

    And if your physician lies to you about one thing, can you trust him to tell the truth about anything?!

  5. Over the past decade, Church had objected to LGBT Pride observances at Beth Israel. He had sent emails to hospital staff containing antigay statements and had posted similar comments on Beth Israel’s internal website. A sample from an email he sent to the hospital CEO, as shared by Mass Resistance, an antigay group based in Massachusetts that took up Church’s cause, read:

    “The evidence is irrefutable that behaviors common within the homosexual community are unhealthy and high risk for a host of serious medical consequences, including STD's, HIV and AIDS, anal cancer, hepatitis, parasitic intestinal infections, and psychiatric disorders. Life expectancy is significantly decreased as a result of HIV/AIDS, complications from the other health problems, and suicide. This alone should make it reprehensible to the medical community, who has an obligation to promote and model healthy behaviors and lifestyles.

    “It is all together inappropriate for BIDMC to endorse, affirm, or encourage the behaviors ‘celebrated’ by Gay Pride Week. Sexual orientation has absolutely no direct bearing on work qualifications, and therefore does not require endorsement in the workplace. This action again jeopardizes the credibility of BIDMC as a healthcare institution and dishonors a large proportion of its community who continue to hold to the conviction that homosexuality is unnatural and immoral. ... Instead, you have allowed the homosexual activists to expand their peculiar activities on campus and promoted these perversions in an institution-wide email message.”

    In 2011 a Beth Israel peer review committee reprimanded Church, and told him to stop communicating with staff regarding his views on homosexuality. Last year hospital officials said he had violated that order on communications, citing website posts such as this one in 2013:

    “Celebrating sexual perversions is highly inappropriate, especially in the context of a medical center that should be aware of the negative health consequences of high risk behaviors. It also ignores and dishonors the religious convictions and moral objections that many members of the hospital community share who are opposed to these behaviors.”