A rape victim in Germany was turned away by two Roman Catholic hospitals because they might have to advise her on what to do with an unwanted pregnancy, a doctor has claimed.
Irmgard Maiworm, an emergency centre doctor, first treated the 25-year-old woman when she walked into the centre on Dec 15 saying that she believed that she had been sedated with a date-rape drug and sexually assaulted.
Dr Maiworm called the neighbouring St Vincent's Hospital, run by the Catholic Foundation of the Cellites, to arrange a gynaecological examination but doctors "fearful of their jobs" refused the request, she said.
According to Dr Maiworm, the hospital's ethics committee, following consultation with Cardinal Joachim Meisner, the Archbishop of Cologne, had decided not to conduct examinations of sexual assault victims to avoid having to be in the position to recommend options such as the morning-after pill, which run contrary to Catholic teachings.
Another hospital run by the same organisation also refused to help, Dr Maiworm claimed.
"What kind of morality is this?" the doctor was quoted as saying in the German newspaper Westdeutsche Zeitung. "This, to me, is like the Church of the Middle Ages."
The Cellites Foundation and the Cologne archdiocese denied that Catholic hospitals had been instructed to turn away rape victims.
"We regret very much that the impression has been given to the public that rape victims are no longer able to be treated in Catholic hospitals. That is false," said the archdiocese in a statement, adding that victims would be given all necessary treatment.
The Cellites Foundation said that a "misunderstanding" had led to the woman being turned away, and that an internal inquiry was being held to find out what had happened.