Provost at University of Texas on Catholic Partnership: Hopelessly Ill-Informed or Willful Lies?

Below is a message sent out by the University of Texas at Austin that contains a line of such unadulterated BS that it’s making CatholicWatch’s head spin.  For those in the know, the University of Texas is trying to justify its partnership with Seton Health Care Family (which requires compliance with the ERDs) to train future physicians.  You can read more about it here.   

Here’s what Executive Vice President and Provost Steven Leslie had to say about the deal that is so mind-boggling:  “It is true that the doctors employed by Seton must abide by Catholic directives while practicing medicine in those facilities, including rules on birth control, abortion and end-of-life care. However, those same directives also require that patients are fully informed so they can give free consent, which requires doctors to share the full range of information about medications and procedures, including contraception.”

Now it’s clear that Leslie has either never read the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care or he read them but didn’t comprehend what they actually say.

Here’s what the ERDs say on this point, starting with an excerpt from Directive 27:  “Free and informed consent requires that the person or the person’s surrogate receive all reasonable information about the essential nature of the proposed treatment and its benefits; its risks, side-effects, consequences, and cost and any reasonable and MORALLY LEGITIMATE alternatives, including no treatment at all…..The free and informed health care decision of the person or the person’s surrogate is to be followed so long as it does not contradict Catholic principles.”

Which means a person who enters into a Catholic hospital automatically is deprived of THE RIGHT TO FREE AND INFORMED CONSENT because no procedure can be done that violates Catholic principles and no information about alternatives that are not deemed “morally legitimate” in the eyes of the Catholic Church need be discussed either.

Across the United States, patients in Catholic hospitals are regularly denied information about legal, medically approved treatments because such treatments – including contraception – violate the ERDs.

How many women who enter Catholic hospitals with an ectopic pregnancy ever find out that the administration of methotrexate could eliminate the need for the “bishop-approved” treatment of removing a woman’s Fallopian tube?  (And for readers who don’t understand this point, Directive 48 forbids an abortion even in the case of an extrauterine pregnancy, which is what an ectopic pregnancy is.  However, if a physician removes the Fallopian tube, then he or she is considered to be acting to save the woman’s life and not directly “targeting” the embryo.  You can read more about this craziness here.)

If the University of Texas wants to tie itself to religiously-restricted, medieval medical practices, then it should admit that’s what it’s doing and not spout unfounded lies and/or propaganda.

The full statement of Steven W. Leslie, University of Texas at Austin, follows:

“As the University of Texas at Austin embarks upon building the Dell Medical School, one of our highest priorities is to ensure that the medical school will deliver leading-edge health care education and patient-centered care that covers our community’s entire spectrum of needs. That responsibility will require careful attention to curriculum, policies, faculty, facilities and community as we march toward the first entering medical class, slated for 2016.

As institutions committed to the free exchange of ideas and civic debate, UT-Austin and the Seton Healthcare Family welcome and encourage the public’s engagement on medical school initiatives — including feedback on the university’s partnership with Catholic-affiliated Seton.

The Dell Medical School will be built using models established by nearly every major medical school in the country, which use a variety of hospital partners to train their medical students and residents – private, publicly owned and faith-based.

Seton’s commitment to build a $295 million hospital with 222 beds means that our medical students and residents will practice their skills in a hospital designed for clinicians who will practice in the new era of health care delivery and with the high standard of care that Central Texans expect for both the insured and uninsured.

We intend to build additional partnerships with other providers once a dean and staff are on board. The goal: to give our students access to the widest possible range of clinical experiences.
As is the case with most resident programs nationally, the medical residents (new doctors who are still in training) and faculty most closely associated with resident training will be the employees of the hosting hospital. So yes, a fair share of the participants in our residency programs will be Seton employees. However, we will also have more than 170 volunteer faculty who will teach in their offices and other facilities outside of Seton, and there will be a significant number of state-funded faculty members who will be paid through allocations by the Board of Regents and other public money.

It is true that the doctors employed by Seton must abide by Catholic directives while practicing medicine in those facilities, including rules on birth control, abortion and end-of-life care. However, those same directives also require that patients are fully informed so they can give free consent, which requires doctors to share the full range of information about medications and procedures, including contraception. 
Residents are not precluded from doing rotations in other facilities. In fact, national accrediting standards require that we provide opportunities that may not be permissible under Catholic ethical and religious directive rules. Currently, UT Southwestern residents practice in non-Seton community-based outpatient settings in Austin, and we anticipate having a similar arrangement.

It is not true that all of our faculty will be Seton employees and will be bound by their rules on health care practice and research. Medical school students spend four years learning basic science and clinical medicine before moving on to internships or residencies. Basic science and clinical tenure track/tenured Dell Medical School faculty will be UT-Austin employees.

The addition of Dell Medical School will allow for an exponential expansion of medical research in Central Texas. A clinical research facility will be built and owned by UT-Austin in the medical district of the UT campus, south of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. This is where UT-paid faculty will practice, see patients and conduct medical research.

Our faculty will pursue the full range of medical research, even that which may be in conflict with Catholic doctrine, as is appropriate for a publicly funded institution. Our partners agree on that issue, and we have practical experience in this community on how to make these relationships work in a way that respects all participants.

The university’s partnership with Seton, while unique in its composition, will deliver the best in medical education, community health care and research. That relationship will be different from those at other institutions because of Dell Medical School’s attachment to a pre-existing academic campus. The development of our procedures and research programs will fall well in line with national norms for public medical education. This will become even more evident once the new dean is in place and faculty recruitment begins in earnest early next year.

This is an exciting time for the university and for Austin, which has placed its trust in us. We are grateful and will fulfill our commitments to this community.
In order for us to open our doors, we must meet national accrediting standards in all areas of medical care, including women’s health, medical ethics, and end-of-life care. We intend to meet and exceed those standards.”
Leslie is executive vice president and provost at the University of Texas at Austin.

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4 thoughts on “Provost at University of Texas on Catholic Partnership: Hopelessly Ill-Informed or Willful Lies?

  1. Keith comess

    Perhaps James Clapper was consulted in the preparation of that statement. Irony aside and ignoring the obvious attempts to both dissimulate and obfuscate, patients in hospital are often incapable (due to serious illness, cognitive impairment, financial, social or other constraints) of acting on or understanding their “options”, even if carefully and fully explained. Even if none of these considerations apply, it’s a gross inconvenience to move elsewhere for care and it’s also both disruptive and contrary to “best medical practice”. While I expect chicanery if this sort from the State of Texas, I find it simultaneously a source of consternation an dismay to see it exhibited by a fine medical school. Sad, indeed.

    1. shannon z

      Below is a letter I sent to University of Texas Executive Vice President and Provost Steven Leslie:

      Dr. Steven W. Leslie,

      After reading your article in the Austin American Statesman, I have a question regarding the Dell Medical School’s services to UT students.

      Will UT Student rape victims have access to sexual assault forensic exams at the new Dell Medical School to provide rape kit services after an assault? Will a UT Student be able to get immediate medical help?

      Will The university’s partnership with Seton, allow “leading-edge health care and patient-centered care that covers our community’s entire spectrum of needs” specifically emergency care of ALL University of Texas students?

      All major hospital have this service, especially teaching hospitals associated with a med schools. Will UT trust the care of its students to your new partner and re-write your sexual assault policy? Or continue to send victims to St. David’s Medical Center, the only hospital within 11 counties that provide this important care.

      At present, UT’s sexual assault policy openly state a student should go to St. David’s, (NOT the new medical partner Seton), because their Catholic policy does not allow Sexual Assault Forensic Exams.

      Options for Survivors of Sexual Assault / Police and Medical
      A student who experiences any form of sexual assault or sexual coercion is encouraged to seek care immediately. People at least 18 years old can have an exam to preserve evidence of the assault with or without involving the police. Reporting an assault to law enforcement does not mean that the case will automatically go to criminal trial or a University disciplinary hearing. If the police are called, a uniformed officer will be sent to the scene to take a detailed statement. A ride to the hospital can be provided by a police department counselor. Survivors who want to have evidence collected and who choose not to call police can go directly to the emergency department of St. David’s Medical Center at 919 East 32nd Street, Austin, 78705. Survivors who want help from the police should call 911.

      A survivor has the option to have a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) performed by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) within five days of the assault if law enforcement is involved and within four days if they are not. With a survivor’s consent, the evidence collected during this exam can be used as part of a criminal investigation. For more information about the SAFE, see

      The survivor is strongly encouraged to seek medical and psychological care and to be treated for any injuries. He/she can choose to take medications to prevent sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, regardless of whether the police were contacted or a SAFE was performed. This medical care can be provided at University Health Services, at a local emergency room, or by a private physician off-campus. Psychological care can be provided by the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center, SafePlace ([512] 267-7233, or with a care provider of the survivor’s choosing.

      Please let me know the university’s plan regarding UT student victims care.

  2. Pingback: “So long as it does not contradict Catholic principles” » Butterflies and Wheels

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