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GYN prescribes natural family planning in practice

By Joe Kohn
March 15th, 2006
Catholic News Service (www.catholicnews.com)

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. For Dr. Daniel Greene, there's no more debating the point: God made the human body, and he knows what's best for it.

As a result, Greene, a gynecologist and member of St. Mary of the Hills Parish in the Detroit suburb of Rochester Hills, has decided that natural family planning is the only form of birth control he will prescribe.

"It's crystal clear to me," said Greene, who has practiced obstetrics and gynecology for 11 years. "It makes perfect sense as to why one would choose to live the culture of life or practice natural family planning or embrace the church's teaching on human sexuality."

"I think a lot of people just haven't looked at it," he told The Michigan Catholic, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Natural family planning refers to forms of birth regulation which, in conformity with Catholic teaching, do not involve the use of any artificial means of contraception. Different natural methods all share two basic elements: monitoring of the woman's monthly fertility cycle and abstinence during her fertile period except when the couple wants to have a baby.

When used properly, modern natural family planning methods have greater success rates than the most effective contraceptive, have no side effects and never lead to abortion. Some birth control methods are considered abortifacients by the church.

Greene spent his early medical career as most gynecologists do; examining patients, delivering babies and presenting women with a wide array of artificial birth control methods.

But as he grew more deeply in his faith, he began to have questions.

Raised Lutheran, he entered the church because his wife, Liza, was Catholic. He was preparing to become a Catholic through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults as he was going through his medical residency in the mid-1990s. He was taught that artificial birth control was against church teaching but really a matter of conscience.

"I clung to that for about eight years," he said.

Then, his deepening faith caused him to reconsider.

He listened to lectures, read books and received friendly nudges from both the medical and religious sides of the debate.

In medicine, he knew that artificial birth control had side effects and potentially though the chances, admittedly, were small could cause physical harm to his patients. The risks and societal harms of contraception, he said, were glossed over in his traditional medical training, and natural family planning was given only a passing mention.

Then, there were his patients to consider; they included Denise Gabryel, a member of Immaculate Conception Parish in Lapeer.

Through a long and heart-wrenching ordeal with her he was helping deliver her baby, who had died in her womb Greene was touched. He recalls walking into her hospital room at midnight to see her watching the Mass on television.

"She had this equanimity about her the whole time, this faith she was bearing the cross," he recalls. "She was a living witness of what faith was to me."

Greene was led into a conversation with Gabryel and her husband, Mark, about the faith and eventually about natural family planning.

It was one more way Greene felt God was leading him toward a change in his practice.

"With all these things, it was just like click, click, click, click everything was making perfect sense," he said. "Everything was saying, 'Yeah. This is the right thing to do and it's what God wants and it's going to honor God.'"

Finally, he received the consent of his colleagues at Contemporary Obstetrics and Gynecology and became a doctor who prescribes only natural family planning.

He made the switch in November, writing a letter to notify his patients, and explaining it to some face to face.

"I've had some Catholic patients who have been like, 'Yes!' a high-five kind of moment and they can see it's God's work," said Greene. "And other patents kind of gave me a deer-in-the-headlights kind of stare and I got a transfer-of-records form within a week."

Though he has lost some patients, Dorothy Staple, the natural family planning coordinator for the Archdiocese of Detroit, could see him being flooded with more.

"I constantly get calls from women who are using natural family planning and ask whether we have natural family planning-only doctors," Staple said. "These women are tired of going to doctors and not being heard."

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