Is hysterectomy permissible?

My daughter has intense pain from endometriosis which she incurred after the birth of her first child. The doctors have suggested a hysterectomy as the solution for the pain. It is quite debilitating. Her husband is telling her that it would be wrong to have the hysterectomy as it would prevent any future children. The pain also may be one of the causes of her tachycardia. Is it against Church teaching for her to have a hysterectomy for these causes?

The principal of double effect would apply here. When performing a morally good or neutral action for the accomplishment of a morally good end, a secondary evil effect is tolerated as long as the evil effect is not willed and would be avoided if possible.

Humanae Vitae:

  1. On the other hand, the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever.

USCCB’s Ethical And Religious Directives For Catholic Health Care Services:

  1. Direct sterilization of either men or women, whether permanent or temporary, is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution. Procedures that induce sterility are permitted when their direct effect is the cure or alleviation of a present and serious pathology and a simpler treatment is not available.

The situation you are describing is one in which someone’s health requires a treatment which would have a secondary result of creating an impediment to procreation. This result is not willed nor is it the intention of the procedure (the medical procedure’s intention is to stop pain, not prevent pregnancy). Therefore, if this is the course of action that medical professionals have deemed best for the patient’s health then it is permissible in Catholic teaching.

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