Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 21, 2020 / 12:30 pm
A Catholic woman has won her case to have a priest visit her critically-injured husband at a Maryland hospital, it was announced on Tuesday.
Susanna Marcus had filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in early June, after her husband, Sidney, was critically-injured in the ICU but could not see a priest because his condition was deemed not serious enough to warrant a visit.
Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly, Maryland, had limited clergy visits to cases where the patient was at the “point-of-death,” out of concern for the COVID-19 pandemic. The HHS OCR successfully intervened on Marcus’ behalf.
It is “critically important,” said Roger Severino, head of the HHS civil rights office, that “as we work to save as many lives as possible, that we don’t forget what people live for. And an important part of that is living for their faith.”
Sidney and Susanna Marcus were riding their motorcycle in late May when they were struck by a drunk driver, resulting in Sidney being admitted to the ICU. Because of the gravity of Sidney’s condition, Susanna decided to have a priest visit him and administer the anointing of the sick.
“We believe that, in the sacraments, our souls are united to God. And I needed to know that he [Sidney] had access to that,” Susanna Marcus told reporters on Tuesday in an HHS OCR conference call.
However, the hospital limited clerical visits to only cases of imminent death, out of concern for the contagiousness of the virus; because Marcus was not judged to be at the point of death, he was denied access to a priest.
“Spiritual needs don’t only exist at the point of death,” Severino told reporters on Monday.