Tuesday, December 6, 2011

UPDATE to US Military Bans Bibles and Christianity. Again.

Following the public revelation on the floor of the House of Representatives that Chief of Staff Callahan of Bethesda, Maryland's National Military Medical Center had issued a memo that banned Bibles along with homemade cookies: "No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.",  the PR folks went to work quickly to announce they would make the policy "crystal clear".  Uh huh.

Today, the following partial statement is appearing on the home page of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center website:

    Thank you for your interest in the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
    We apologize for any confusion that resulted from our policy. In no way was the instruction meant to prohibit family members from providing religious items to their love ones. The intent of the instruction was to respect the religious and cultural practices of all of our patients. We are drafting a new instruction that will clearly articulate our respect for religious and cultural practices of all of our patients and families.

    Again, we regret any confusion that this might have caused and we thank you for your support of our Warriors and their families.

    On behalf of the Command...

 The statement is unlinked,  and unattributed, and I am unable to find a copy of the full statement on the website.It just trails off with "On behalf of the Command...". So no one has yet to take any personal responsibility for either the policy or the apology.

I find this statement is disingenuous, considering the explicit detail, definitrion, and citation of rationale for every other item in the policy memo, including stating why homemade apple pies can't be brought in. What I suspect happened is that after the memo had been written and vetted through most of the normal process, someone angry over some single event somewhere stuck this in as an afterthought and didn't want to mess with sending it back through the chain of approvals so proceeded as though it had been part of the document all along.

Just for the sake of the record, here's an abbreviated version of the memo. Go here for the full PDF.

Ref: (a) NAVMED Policy Memo 10-015

1. Purpose. To provide guidelines with respect to the presence and participation of families and other partners in care. This document replaces the hospital's previous visitation policies for...[active duty patients].

4. Policy. ...[F]amilies are considered partners within the health care team ...

6. ...[V]isits include the following partners in care:
a. Family
b. Leadership of Title 36 congressionally chartered Organizations
c. Members of the: [government]
e. Celebrities and sports personnel vetted through the Staff Judge Advocate
f. Members of the press vetted through the Public Affairs office
g. Other partners in care who represent....the [VFW], American Legion, Fleet Reserve Association, Marine Corps League, Army League, and other similar organizations...
h. Leadership of the Military Coalition and National Military Veterans Alliance.
i. Out of town visitors...
j. Partners in care representing verifiable 501(c)(3) benevolent organizations wishing to interact...or provide goods or services... [These] will not be allowed unfettered access to the inpatient environment for the purposes of information gathering, solicitation, or donation delivery. (1) All donations...[require] approved processes, vetting methods, accountability...

7. Exceptions. [Patients may refuse visitors at any time.

8. Partners in Care Guidelines
a. All non-family visits must be scheduled five days in advance.
b. Group size will not exceed five.
c. All partners in care, under the age of 8, must be accompanied by an adult.
d. Photographs may not be taken...without express permission and signed Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act documentation... signed by the patient or PNOK [Primary Next Of Kin] if patient is incapacitated....
e. Due to dietary restrictions and infectious disease protocols, the distribution of home produced baked goods to the patients, families, or staff members is prohibited.
f. No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.

9. Release of Patient Information. All patient information will be released in accordance with reference (a).

C.W. Callahan
Chief of Staff

Distribution: WRNMMC Intranet

The original policy actually does make "crystal clear" that families are numbered among "partners in care", that patients can refuse visits at any time, that all non-famliy visitors have to be approved in advance - and their gifts have to be approved in advance too. So why the need to call out the Bible specifically, without mentioning the Book of Mormon, or the koran, or the Bhagavad-Gita? Why call out the Bible and related items without specifying WHY or offering alternatives, as every other matter itemized in the policy does? As I said above, I think this was a last minute addition to the policy by someone with an agenda.

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