Catholic Church’s influence over Irish hospital medicine persists

Nuns sit on St Vincent’s board of directors and doctors must sign contracts promising adherence to hospital ethos

The chairman of St Vincent’s Hospital has  dismissed as sensational the “tale of nuns attempting to control Irish maternity services”. However, history shows that ethos affects treatment. File photograph:  Dave Meehan

The chairman of St Vincent’s Hospital has dismissed as sensational the “tale of nuns attempting to control Irish maternity services”. However, history shows that ethos affects treatment. File photograph: Dave Meehan

The Institute of Obstetricians has expressed concern that St Vincent’s hospital, which is owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity, will govern the National Maternity Hospital when it transfers to the St Vincent’s campus. Chairman Dr Peter Boylan stated that “Catholic-controlled hospitals around the world forbid the provision of modern contraceptive services, IVF, sterilisation operations and gender reassignment surgery”, and also expressed concern about the implementation of the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act.

Despite a common perception of secularisation, many modern Irish hospitals are still run according to Catholic mores. The running of the Irish health service was largely undertaken by religious orders in the past. Orders of nuns were responsible for the setting up of many of Ireland’s hospitals in the 19th and 20th centuries.

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