Friday, 27 May 2011
Doctor Jesus - Government Approved
Two linked stories about religion and health this time.
Dr Richard Scott has been disciplined by the General Medical Council (GMC) for bringing Jesus into the surgery after the mother of a patient complained that Scott preached at her son during a consultation. Scott believes that where Western medicine ends, Jesus can step in. He claims he has seen Jesus curing people and that 'there is a place for Jesus in the surgery'. He also believes that homeopathy works - there is about the same amount of evidence for both of these practices. None.
He describes the 'faith approach' as 'an optional extra' but it's one patients have to actively opt out of.
The Bethesda Medical Centre in Margate where he practices is run by six Christian GPs. The website states: The 6 Partners are all practising Christians from a variety of Churches and their faith guides the way in which they view their work and responsibilities to the patients and employees. The Partners feel that the offer of talking to you on spiritual matters is of great benefit. If you do not wish this, that is your right and will not affect your medical care. Please tell the doctor (or drop a note to the Practice Manager) if you do not wish to speak on matters of faith.
NHS patients should not have to opt out of being preached at. Many people go to the doctor in a vulnerable state and may not feel confident enough to challenge him or her as the balance of power is very much with the doctor in that situation. There is a very big difference between practising medicine and practising Christianity.
Not only did he prescribe a dose of Jesus, he tried to convert the patient whose mother complained, telling him that 'he might find Christianity offers more than his current faith', suggesting the patient went to Scott's church or its Alpha courses. Presumably he's done a randomised, placebo-controlled, peer-reviewed experiment to prove this. He is supposed to be a scientist, after all.
The GMC is very clear that doctors 'must not impose their beliefs on patients, or cause distress by the inappropriate or insensitive expression of religious, political or other beliefs or views.' If the patient wants to lead a conversation about faith then that's a different matter but even then, the doctor should keep his or her views in the background. Even the UK College of Healthcare Chaplaincy, an entirely religious body, describes proselytising as 'spiritual abuse' in its 2005 guidelines.
Scott is not deterred. He believes that the GMC's ruling is further evidence of 'Christians being hammered at work' and is appealing the decision, backed by the Christian Legal Centre who are always quick to jump on any case where they think that Christianity should take precedence over all other rights. You can see a clip of him talking here.
Scott also spoke about referring women to a local Christian abortion counselling centre. It's not surprising that he and an increasing number of others think it is their right to force their beliefs onto people in the workplace and in therapeutic settings. There is an increasingly foetid climate of religion demanding exemption from laws and guidelines. The Government is fuelling this state of affairs by welcoming hard-core believers into health care services with open arms - despite the fact that over 70% of people in the UK (Including reasonable, rational believers) support abortion and contraception.
The new sexual health forum set up to replace the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV will include the Life organisation - but not the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. Life is also a member of the new Sex and Relationships Council recently launched in parliament and endorsed by education secretary Michael Gove - all nine members of this group are either pro-abstinence, anti-abortion or both, including the Silver Ring Thing.
Life said that all members of the forum want to reduce the number of abortions and their motives are secondary. This is disingenuous at best. Life's mission, according to its website 'is to uphold the utmost respect for human life from fertilisation (conception) until natural death' and that it fulfills this mission by 'Offering non-directive counselling and information on pregnancy, pregnancy loss and abortion.' It's hard to see how it can be both pro-life and non-directive.
One of its aims is 'challenging governments and policy makers to adopt policies which reflect and uphold the utmost respect for human life from fertilisation until natural death'. They are opposed to abortion even after rape. The apparent reason for having them on the forum is to bring 'balance' but presumably this means balancing scientific evidence with a position that is neither scientific nor evidence-based.
As if this weren't enough, MP Nadine Dorries thinks that teaching abstinence - but just to girls - will solve everything, including child abuse. And in Richmond, the Catholic Children's Society has been given a contract to advise schoolchildren on contraception and pregnancy.
The abortion rate for under 18s has fallen so this is no time to revisit the Dark Ages of ignorance, judgement and prudery. Virginity is not a precious gift from God. Some of us are getting very weary indeed of saying that abstinence has been proven over and over not to work. These hard-core religious groups claim to be pro-life but it's not the life of women and young people they care about.
More of the Doctor Jesus series here, here, here and here.