Doctors' mag hopeful about Catholic med school

An editorial in Australian Doctor magazine has expressed optimism that Notre Dame University's medical school will produce doctors who will be "willing and able to treat all patients without prejudice".

The editorial, written by Dr Kerri Parnell, pointed out that the personal views of future medical graduates have been in the news, with fears that graduates of the new medical school at the Catholic Notre Dame University in Fremantle may allow their views to affect the care they deliver. Dr Parnell said concerns about graduates of the school stemmed partly from the cases of pharmacies that have refused to stock condoms or the morning-after pill for ethical reasons.

Prefacing her comments with a recognition of the church's "role in providing care to often-neglected sectors of the community, including the disadvantaged and those with HIV/AIDS", Dr Parnell quoted concern expressed in the Medical Journal of Australia that the ethos of the new medical school may limit patient access to health services and comprehensive medical care.

"The article suggests graduates of religiously affiliated medical schools may have concerns about certain treatments, which in turn limit their ability to provide the full gamut of medical care," she said. "In addition, there's a danger graduates' education will be inadequate in some areas, such as termination of pregnancy, provision of contraception, assisted reproductive technologies, genetic counselling and end-of-life care."

Dr Parnell said that although officials at Notre Dame say their course will deal with these issues in a non-judgmental and ethical manner, "they acknowledge that the use of contraception is an immoral act according to Catholic doctrine".

While praising some aspects of the university's application, such as the proposed units in philosophy and ethics, an Australian Medical Council assessment of Notre Dame's medical course marked several issues for attention, and suggested the compulsory theology course should either be optional or modified to ensure it equipped graduates to deal with patients of all beliefs.

Dr Parnell concluded: "It is hoped that any adverse effects of religious affiliation on medical education will remain in the realm of the theoretical and our future doctors, regardless of their alma mater, will be willing and able to treat all patients without prejudice."

Editorial: Religious prejudice has no place in theory or practice (Australian Doctor 20/7/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Notre Dame University Australia
Increasing diversity at the cost of decreasing equity? Issues raised by the establishment of Australia's first religiously affiliated medical school (Medical Journal of Australia 2005 - 183-1)
Centre for Values, Ethics and Law in Medicine

Academics challenge idea of Catholic medical school (CathNews 4/7/05)
Commencement of works at Sydney's new Catholic university (CathNews 10/6/05)
Notre Dame Medical School inaugurated with Eucharist (CathNews 24/2/05)
Notre Dame med school one step closer (CathNews 24/1/05)
New schools boost medical training (CathNews 30/11/04)
Demand builds for Notre Dame (The Australian 27/10/04)
Notre Dame welcomes Federal support for Sydney campus (CathNews 2/8/04)

Medical school defends theology class (Australian Doctor 20/7/05)

21 Jul 2005