Dr. Debra Stulberg is an Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. Her research focuses on the effect of religiously-sponsored health care on reproductive health, medical decision-making, and the doctor-patient relationship. Dr. Stulberg also is an expert in Medical Ethics and serves as adjunct faculty in the McLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago. Based on her particular clinical and research experience, she has a secondary appointment in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the section of Family Planning & Contraceptive Research at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Dr. Stulberg is the co-director of the Research Consortium on Religious Healthcare Institutions. Dr. Stulberg’s practice is full-scope family medicine with a specific emphasis on reproductive health and maternal child health. Dr. Stulberg has published numerous articles addressing her research on the impact of religion on reproductive health, including:
- “Obstetrician-gynecologists, religious institutions, and conflicts regarding patient-care policies,” American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology (2012) (52% of obstetrician-gynecologists working in Catholic hospitals reported conflicts with the hospital over religiously-based policies for patient care.)
- “Conflicts in Care for Obstetric Complications in Catholic Hospitals,” AJOB Primary Research (2013) (Obstetrician-gynecologists working in Catholic hospitals reported conflicts with the hospitals’ religious policies that affected the physician’s ability to properly care for women experiencing certain obstetric emergencies.)
- “Tubal ligation in Catholic hospitals: a qualitative study of ob-gyns’ experiences,” Contraception (2014) (Obstetrician-gynecologists working in Catholic hospitals were frustrated by the hospitals’ prohibition against tubal ligation at the time of c-section which resulted in patients having to have a second subsequent surgery and created particular barriers for low-income patients.)
- “Referrals for Services Prohibited In Catholic Health Care Facilities,” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health (2016) (Some Catholic hospitals make it difficult for obstetrician-gynecologists to provide referrals for comprehensive reproductive services.)
Medical Ethics and Religious Restrictions on Health Care
Every doctor learns about medical ethics in medical school, specifically about the importance of informed consent. In this video, Dr. Stulberg explains that a patient must be made aware of all standard of care treatment options, including the risks, benefits and alternatives to each path of treatment for any given health care need. Because doctors at religiously affiliated hospitals and facilities often withhold important information about certain treatment options for religious reasons, patients cannot give informed consent. This denial of information, harms the doctor-patient relationship by preventing the patient from being able to make an informed decision about her own health.
Denial of Contraceptives on Religious Grounds
In this video, Dr. Stulberg discusses how Catholic hospitals and health care facilities cannot provide contraception because of religious doctrine. Even though the vast majority of women use birth control at some point in their reproductive lives and most health care professionals consider contraceptives part of standard care for women, doctors at Catholic hospitals and facilities often have to find work-arounds to be able to prescribe birth control to their patients. These under-the-table ways of getting around the rules to get birth control into women’s hands sends the harmful message that birth control for the sake of birth control is not a legitimate medical service.
Denial of Miscarriage Treatment on Religious Grounds
- Put Patients First: Initiative to Stop the Use of Religion to Deny Health Care
- Health Care Denied: Patients and Physicians Speak Out About Catholic Hospitals and the Threat to Women’s Health and Lives
- Share Your Story: If you have been the victim of a health care denial, or you have a story to share, tell us about it