Religious Health Care has No Place at UC

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Illustration by Manne Green

Doctors pledge to do no harm, but at Dignity Health piety outweighs medical responsibility. 

On several campuses, the UC partners with the Catholic health care company. Dignity Health’s care is bound to the teachings of the church and the directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

The Catholic Church does not accept same-sex marriages, and its teachings defend the supposed sanctity of a heteronormative gender binary. The Church also emphasizes chastity, supports abstinence-only sex education and opposes abortion in all circumstances. 

Collaborating with Dignity Health condones the company’s religion-informed policies, which keep people from receiving the health care they deserve. The UC claims the partnership will improve care, but Dignity Health’s Catholic affiliation sends a message that not everyone has a right to the care they want.

Dignity Health runs the Mercy Cancer Center at UC Davis and is working with UC San Francisco to develop an online platform for communication between the hospital and its patients. UC President Janet Napolitano also joined Dignity Health CEO Lloyd Dean to co-chair the California Future Health Workforce Commission, a project developing recommendations to improve the statewide health care workforce.

The UC’s association with Dignity Health is a dangerous breach of the separation of church and state. The UC’s mission is to teach and provide public service, while Dignity Health’s mission is to further the healing ministry of Jesus. 

In January 2016, Dignity Health refused to perform a tubal ligation procedure on Rebecca Chamorro after her planned C-section delivery. Dignity Health would not provide her with the care she sought because of religious directives that classify sterilization procedures as “intrinsically evil.” Since the Dignity Health-run Mercy Medical Center was the only hospital within 70 miles of her home, Chamorro was trapped in a system that denied her freedom of choice.

That September, Evan Minton planned to undergo a hysterectomy at the Mercy San Juan Medical Center, a Dignity Health facility. Two days before his appointment, during a phone call to discuss the procedure, Minton mentioned to a nurse he is transgender. Dignity Health then canceled his surgery. According to the ACLU, the doctor scheduled to perform the hysterectomy said it was the first time the hospital prevented her from doing such a surgery and it was clear the hospital canceled because Minton is transgender.

It is irresponsible to ignore Dignity Health’s history of denying health care to patients seeking unbiased reproductive services. 

Collaborating with Dignity Health shows patients the UC doesn’t care about their freedom to choose. Patients who make educated decisions about their bodies should never be denied health care because the Church thinks it knows best. The UC must commit to inclusive, informed, harm-reduction based health care and prove its dedication to serving everyone, not just those accepted by the  Church.

UC President Janet Napolitano and UC health care institutions must sever partnerships with Dignity Health and disavow the company’s anti-choice, anti-LGBTQIA+ actions. Health care should never be impacted by religious doctrine. Email, call or write Janet Napolitano. Voice your concerns at the UC Regents meeting, May 15-16 at UCSF Mission Bay, and the UC Health Services Committee meeting on June 11.


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