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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

UC must end contracts with Dignity Health

Transgender people deserve dignified healthcare

The UC’s existing affiliations with health systems that restrict care based on religious doctrine have been found to have “life-threatening” consequences. That’s not a hyperbolic statement — that’s the exact wording of a finding published on Jan. 28 by a UC working group tasked with assessing the UC’s affiliations with health systems like Dignity Health.

The Editorial Board condemns the egregious partnership between the UC and Dignity — a health system that abides by Catholic doctrines that restrict care for women and LGBTQIA individuals. Existing UC-Dignity contracts explicitly “restrict UC students and instructors from providing care” that’s in conflict with religious doctrine observed by Dignity, a recent article in The California Aggie stated. 

As long as the contracts with Dignity exist, the UC is participating in an “openly discriminatory model of healthcare” — a sentiment expressed by a Los Angeles Times columnist and one with which we wholeheartedly agree.

In response to criticism over this partnership, Dignity claims it is committed to providing healthcare “to all people of all backgrounds,” including “providing women’s health care and specialty care for the LGBTQ community” — yet all evidence points to the contrary. The UC has also defended the partnership: Because the UC and Dignity are the two largest Medi-Cal providers, a collaboration allows “the University to remain focused on increasing access to care for medically vulnerable or underserved patients,” according to UC Spokesperson Andrew Gordon

This rationale is inherently and insidiously flawed. Twenty-four out of 39 Dignity hospitals are Catholic and, according to the Daily Bruin, 24 out of 39 Dignity hospitals “reject the use of gender-affirming practices such as hormone therapy and surgeries.”

There is, therefore, distorted logic in the UC’s claims that this partnership allows it to provide additional care to vulnerable populations. Transgender individuals are a medically vulnerable and underserved group, but Dignity prohibits gender-affirming care by rejecting “the possibility of a person having a gender that differs from their sex assigned at birth,” according to the UC working group.

In September of last year, a California appellate court ruled that Dignity discriminated against Evan Minton, a transgender man, when one of its hospitals turned him away from receiving a hysterectomy — the procedure was “canceled two days after he told a nurse he is transgender,” according to Modern Healthcare.

The UC working group was tasked with assessing whether the UC should “affiliate at all with organizations whose institutional policies (a) prohibit the use of contraception, abortion, assisted reproductive technology, gender-affirming care for transgender people, and the full range of end-of-life options and (b) permit non-clinicians to make clinical decisions affecting the health and safety of individual patients irrespective of the professional judgment of health care providers and/or the informed decisions of patients.” Members of the working group itself were so divided in their beliefs over this issue that some members decided they could not associate their names with the final report.

The UC is a system that has defined itself based on principles of inclusion and celebrating diversity. It’s then baffling that the UC permits discrimination of any form to exist in its practices.

Last year, physicians, students and activist groups protested over a potential expansion of the UC-Dignity partnership. This proved successful when, in May, the proposed “extensive affiliation” plan between Dignity and UCSF ended. The LA Times called this “a victory for reproductive rights.” 

UC-Dignity contracts at other campuses like UC Davis, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, Irvine and San Francisco, however, still exist. The fact that the UC has chosen to turn a blind eye to the very real consequences of this partnership is outrageous and appalling. Minton himself summarized this inexcusable partnership best via Twitter: “Hospitals exist to provide care, not to deny people care OR pick and choose who to give that care to. And we DEFINITELY can’t stand by and let our state’s schools do that.”

Written by: The Editorial Board

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this editorial stated, “A woman being treated in a UC facility who was hemorrhaging from a miscarriage was not able to safely terminate her pregnancy in order to stop the hemorrhage.” That is incorrect. The WCGA report states that such an incident could only occur at a non-UC facility. The Aggie regrets the error.


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