A precedent

More from the Austin Statesman story last December.

University officials said Friday they didn’t know of another public medical school whose primary teaching hospital is Catholic.

So, setting a precedent. A very bad precedent.

Central Health, a public entity, along with the women it serves and doctors it works with, already has had to jump through hoops to accommodate the church, said Meghan Smith, domestic program associate for Catholics for Choice, which supports women’s access to contraception and abortion.

Ian Smith, a lawyer with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said future doctors will have to jump through similar hoops. “You have the University of Texas sending public school students to a hospital where … they have to tell their students they are bound by Catholic religious doctrine,” he said.

It’s just so fucked up. Medical care has to be secular! This should be non-negotiable. “Catholic religious doctrine” should have nothing whatsoever to do with medical care ever ever ever.

But backers of Proposition 1 — the voter-approved property tax increase that will help pay for the medical school, the teaching hospital site and health care for indigent people — see a partnership that respects patients’ rights and offers full training for doctors while honoring Catholic doctrine.

But “honoring Catholic doctrine” shouldn’t be a goal of a medical partnership.

“Seton has long understood that increasing access to great health care for all requires cooperation with non-Catholic organizations, and that tradition of cooperation will continue with the new UT medical school,” said Greg Hartman, a Seton executive who is president and CEO of UMC Brackenridge.

No that’s not what this is about. It’s the other way around. What it’s about is increasing Catholic control of health care in the US. It’s succeeding at a rapid pace.

Such juggling of public health care responsibilities with religious restrictions has grown more complex at UMC Brackenridge over the years.

By the time Seton agreed to operate Brackenridge in 1995, elective abortions were no longer done at the hospital. But voluntary sterilizations were, prompting the Vatican to send several letters to then-Bishop John McCarthy of the Diocese of Austin, instructing him to end the practice. Seton contracted with a private company to perform the procedures at the hospital without using Seton employees.

So we have the Vatican – which let me remind you is another country – micromanaging medical care in Texas. Fascinating. Why stop there, why not let every country in the world meddle with US health care? Also every religion?

Bob Ozer, an activist and retired lawyer in Austin, said that outsourcing those procedures to St. David’s is an echo of “separate but equal” segregated treatment.

“You couldn’t tell blacks they have to go over to St. David’s because they’re black, but here women want to exercise rights to reproductive health care guaranteed by the Constitution and they’re being sent over to another health care provider,” Ozer said. “It’s problematic to have this kind of segregated system that’s segregated just to accommodate the Catholic Church.”

It is. It’s problematic for medical institutions to accommodate the Catholic church in any way. Yet they’re falling like dominos.


  1. Pen says

    It seems shocking that students could be forced into a Catholic institution regardless of their own faith or lack of it. Obviously, it’s equally shocking that patients are. I would rather refuse treatment. Well, no, let me qualify that, I would much rather have nothing to do with a Catholic hospital, but if I was sick and had no other choice, I suspect I would be there, unwillingly. How respectful can they be of other beliefs in end of life situations? (Not including the unwanted end of pregnancy, where obviously, they’re not respectful at all).

  2. says

    Actually, I think the US health care system could be considerably improved if you let say, Canada, or most of Europe except the Vatican, meddle with it. I know, that’s not what you meant….

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