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Michael Hiltzik: UC regents appear poised to surrender to Catholic healthcare restrictions

Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

For more than two years, the University of California has grappled with how to manage proposed partnerships between UC medical systems and hospitals that impose restrictions on healthcare on religious grounds.

That process is about to come to an end. On Wednesday, the UC Board of Regents will vote on a policy governing those arrangements.

If the vote goes as expected, it will be a clear win for religious restrictions, especially those imposed by the Catholic Church at hospitals under its control.

That marks it as a devastating defeat for UC values — that is, for the principle that medical decisions should be based entirely on medical and scientific evidence.

In short, it's almost a complete surrender to the Catholic Church and its goal of shrinking access to healthcare for women and LGBTQ+ patients.

The document on the regents' agenda was produced by the office of UC President Michael V. Drake, a physician with a degree from UC San Francisco, as a recommendation to the regents.

 

Although it effectively endorses guidelines that prohibit outside hospitals from interfering with UC professionals' ability to counsel their patients and prescribe treatments they feel are in the patients' best interest, Drake's recommendation fails to ensure that those professionals can perform those treatments at those hospitals. That's a crucial flaw.

Instead, UC will judge those affiliations acceptable as long as patients can be transferred or referred to other nonrestrictive facilities.

Proposed affiliations will have to "recite the university's public status, role, and commitment to nondiscrimination" and prohibit requirements that UC personnel or trainees enforce or abide by religious directives. But that's a low bar; in fact, it provides affiliation partners huge loopholes to interfere with patient care.

Drake's recommendation, which was posted on the regents' website Thursday, generally follows the position of UC Health, the university division that oversees the system's six health centers and 20 health professional schools.

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