Mrs. _____ has a family history of breast cancer. She wants a TAH/BSO [total abdominal hysterectomy and removal of both ovaries] for prevention. You offered her genetic counseling and genetic testing which she declined. Do you comply with her request?As soon as the question appeared, I snorted a quiet "no" to myself. This is indirect sterilization: a procedure resulting in loss of fertility (direct sterilization is a procedure that brings about the loss of fertility as its only purpose.) Then the results appeared:
I was shocked that the largest group of my peers would remove this woman's healthy generative organs. Since this poll was on my mind, I looked up the relevant Church teaching.
- Yes - 47%
- No - 17%
- Maybe - 36%
In a 1953 address to the Congress of Urology, Pope Pius XII articulated the conditions under which an amputation (specifically, a sterilization) may be performed:
Three things condition the moral permission of a surgical operation requiring an anatomical or functional mutilation;Then, Pope Pius adds a comment that sounds like he is speaking directly to my lecturer.
- that the preservation or functioning of a particular organ provokes a serious damage or constitutes a threat to the complete organism [this is the 'principle of totality'];
- that this damage cannot be avoided, or at least notably diminished, except by the amputation in question and that its efficacy is well assured; and
- that it can be reasonably foreseen that the negative effect, namely, the mutilation and its consequences, will be compensated by the positive effect: exclusion of a damage to the whole organism, mitigation of the pain, etc.
...[T]he conditions which would justify disposing of a part in favor of the whole in virtue of the principle of totality are lacking. It is not therefore morally permissible to operate on healthy oviducts if the life or (physical) health of the [woman] is not threatened by their continued existence.The Pope knows that there is a dignity to the feminine organs. Of course, they confer a woman's special ability to carry a child, but they also maintain a balance of hormones particular to her, which helps her relate to her husband, children, friends, self, and world. I am heartily grateful the Church has always been supportive of women in disallowing divorce, counseling against the Culture of Death, and cautioning against sterilization. (Catholics, clearly, are not to undergo vasectomies or tubal ligations at all, and are not to submit to prophylactic oophorectomies or hysterectomies lightly.)
I found the Pope Pius XII quote on EWTN.