Providence agrees to lift Catholic restrictions at clinic
Responding to pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union, Providence Health & Services, Renton, Wash., has agreed to modify provisions of its partnership agreement with Washington State University and lift restrictions on healthcare services that are contrary to Catholic religious doctrine at a new teaching clinic in Spokane.
The ACLU of Washington had urged the WSU Board of Regents not to allow Catholic religious policy to limit services offered at the new teaching clinic that will be a collaboration between the public university, Catholic-affiliated Providence and Empire Health Foundation.
The ACLU asked the board to ensure that healthcare and medical training at the Spokane Teaching Health Center not be restricted by religious doctrine, or else WSU should withdraw from the partnership. The ACLU cited language in the health center’s bylaws stating that the center “shall not undertake any activity, nor shall it perform or permit any medical procedure, that offends the moral or ethical values or directives of Providence, including but not limited to, the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.”
The directives, issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, prohibit contraceptive services, tubal ligations and other sterilization procedures, fertility treatments, advance directives contrary to Catholic doctrine, and physician-assisted suicide, which is legal for terminally ill patients in Washington under that state’s Death with Dignity Act. Catholic policies also limit clinicians’ discretion in
inserting or removing feeding and hydration tubes in severely ill patients.
Colleen Wadden, a spokeswoman for Providence, said the scope of services provided at the center will not be limited by the Catholic directives. The new center “is a secular (nonreligious) organization and is not bound by the Ethical and Religious Directives,” she said.