Thursday, April 25, 2013

Can Catholics Still Serve in the Health Care Profession?

Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education guidelines for training new physicians could change in 2014…for the better.

By Stephanie Block

There was a disturbing point during the days when the Affordable Health Care Act of 2010 (Obamacare) was being debated that some pundits suggested that practicing Catholics might be unfit for the health care profession altogether. Their point was that if abortion, contraception, and perhaps euthanasia are part of common, standard health care practices, a person who cannot or will not dispense them is a problem. Their existence keeps society from comfortably settling into the fact of regulated fertility and socially engineered human life.

Events pushed this particular discussion into a corner. The funding of these procedures needed to be assured before universal health care’s greatest ally might be roused to mutiny.

Three long years down the road, however, the funding is secured but “reproductive health advocates” worry that there may not be a sufficient number of doctors trained to prescribe, insert, refer, or dispatch the various products and procedures. The latest reason for their concern is proposed changes to Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) guidelines for training new doctors would no longer require them to learn contraceptive provisions, including prescribing contraceptive drugs, inserting IUDs and other implants, or counsel patients with unintended pregnancies on false reproductive and life “choices.” [i]

Defenders of the proposal argue that guideline changes would free individual programs to make their own decisions in these matters.
However, Catholics and their health systems are a sizeable percentage of the United States’ health care provision and critics are quick to point out that many residency programs are run by religious hospitals that don't believe in contraception. Therefore, permitting them any latitude in this matter is the equivalent of permitting them to run an alternative health care system.
Considering that Catholic programs are currently mandated to train their doctors in “reproductive health services,” this proposals seems like a tremendous corrective.

With fewer than 24 hours to comment on the new ACGME curriculum proposals (comments are possible until Thursday, April 26, 2013), however, it’s anyone’s guess how this will unfold.

[i] Julie Rovner, “Family Doctors Consider Dropping Birth Control Training Rule,” National Public Radio blog, 4-25-13.