Academics challenge idea of Catholic medical school

In an article in the Medical Journal of Australia, bioethicist Ian Kerridge and colleagues say the West Australian-based University of Notre Dame medical school may threaten just provision of health care.

An Australian Associated Press report in Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald says ethicists are concerned about Australia's first religiously-affiliated medical school where officials have described contraceptive use as immoral.

The Sydney University academics suggest the school's affiliation with the Catholic Church has the potential to undermine the medical education provided, resulting in limitations on patient access to health services and provision of comprehensive care.

"It is reasonable to assume that all physicians should receive appropriate education about the range of health care services publicly available in Australia, including termination of pregnancy, provision of contraception, assisted reproductive technologies, genetic counselling, prenatal diagnosis and end-of-life care," they wrote.

"Although Notre Dame officials have stated that their graduates will be educated to discuss these issues in a 'non-judgmental, respectful and ethical manner ... in relation to (the patient's) needs and circumstances', they also note that use of contraception is an immoral act according to Catholic doctrine."

But Associate Professor Kerridge, director of the Centre for Values, Ethics and Law in Medicine, and fellow academics also acknowledged some positives.

"Many religious hospitals often demonstrate a deep commitment to care, equity and social justice and service that may seem to be lacking in many secular institutions, as evidenced by the care of the indigent, the dying and those with HIV/AIDS in this country by religious hospitals and clinics."

Notre Dame University's medical school head Adrian Bower said long discussions were held with the Australian Medical Council before accreditation was granted.

"The team was fully satisfied that we could achieve all the outcomes expected of a graduate from an Australian medical school," Professor Bower said. "No doubt the same questions have been asked in good faith of all the great Catholic medical schools, found on all continents, which have been educating medical students for generations."

One of the founders of Notre Dame University's medical school, Michael Quinlan, told The Australian the issues raised by the ethicists were discussed with the Australian Medical Council before accreditation was granted.

"All these matters were addressed by the Australian Medical Council during the process of accreditation," Professor Quinlan said.

"We don't thrust things down students' throats.

The first doctors are expected to graduate from the school in late 2008.

Concerns over Catholic medical school (The Age 3/7/05)
Catholic medical training queried (The Australian 4/7/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
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)
Notre Dame University Australia
Centre for Values, Ethics and Law in Medicine

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)

Official Opening of Notre Dame's Broome Campus Library (University of Notre Dame 1/7/05)

4 Jul 2005