Friday, 21 October 2011

Doctor Jesus - Refreshing the parts that other doctors cannot reach

I wrote a while ago that Doctor Richard Scott is being investigated by the GMC for preaching and trying to convert patients. Now Dr Mark Huckstep, an Oxfordshire GP, has been disciplined for bringing God into the surgery too after NHS Oxfordshire received complaints. He has been investigated by NHS watchdog the National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS) and the General Medical Council (GMC).

Dr Huckstep admitted he used his Christian beliefs as a "complementary therapy" for patients and refused to refer women for abortions because the killing of an unborn child by doctors is a “morally wrong act which also damages women emotionally and psychologically”.

Doctors are permitted by GMC guidelines to pass patients wanting an abortion on to other colleagues if the procedure is against their beliefs, but not to pass judgment on the patient or the procedure. Christian anti-abortionists often use the line that abortion harms the woman, as I've written about several times - most recently here. Just to be clear - there is no evidence of serious harm to women who have abortions, despite the lies (yes, lies) about cancer and mental illness.

Is faith a 'complementary therapy' and, if so, should a doctor be using it in a clinical setting?

Huckstep claims that “This was discussed at length with the PCT approximately seven years ago. We came to the agreement that my Christianity could be treated as a form of “complementary therapy” in addition to usual treatment – ie I would first treat patients according to best practice guidelines, hand them the prescription if there was one, and then ask their consent to talk with them about their lives from a broader point of view than what would be possible if one believed that science could explain our human condition adequately.

“If the patient consented, then I was free to discuss more metaphysical issues such as the meaning of their lives, their struggles with feelings of guilt, shame and meaninglessness, their fear of death, etc, and to suggest books that may help in confronting these issues. Such discussions were always in addition to normal treatment, if time allowed. They were not instead of normal modes of treatment.”

Huckstep's defence was that, because he is certain God exists, “It would be impossible to relate to patients pretending that science could answer their deepest needs when I am fully aware it cannot”.

This defence is very similar to the one used by Dr Richard Scott. He's claiming that he refreshes the parts that other doctors cannot reach. Which is fine if you're a beer, not so good if you're supposed to be keeping people alive long enough to worry about shame and meaninglessness.

He says he did it 'if the patient consented'. It's already been demonstrated by the Scott case that patients are often vulnerable when they come to see a GP and may not feel able to say no. What's more, GMC guidelines state that any discussion of faith should be introduced by the patient, not the doctor as this can easily be an abuse of their position of power. This should be an opt-in, not an opt-out.

The story was featured in the Oxford Times. One of the comments on it is 'He certainly never asked my permission before embarking upon his religious spill (sic), and he certainly kept me waiting over half an hour before being seen and during my consultation he disappeared off a couple of times to do other things'.

So why did the PCT agree to let him do this? They didn't.

A spokesman for the PCT said “The PCT has discussed with Dr Huckstep in the past about his religious beliefs but the PCT has always made it very clear that his religious convictions were not to be imposed on any patient who did not share his views. The PCT did not use the term complementary therapy nor feel that this term in any way reflects its views.”

Huckstep sounds like a bit of a disaster as a doctor anyway. He was also suspended for his 'catastrophic' approach to admin which could have put patients lives at risk -as featured on a recent C4 Dispatches. So it sounds like his real doctoring wasn't even treating the parts of patients' lives it should have been.

Following the investigation, NHS Oxfordshire said Huckstep could return to work under strict conditions, which include a retraining programme.

He has not returned to work as a doctor. His work as a speaker spreading the Good Word about Jesus probably keeps him busy. The sick people of Oxfordshire will have to find something else to treat the human condition. Antibiotics, maybe.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

A Tank Engine is For Life, Not Just For Christmas

Just as Christmas arrives in the shops earlier every year, stories about how secularists and atheists are killing Christmas arrive in the papers earlier. This year, Sainsbury's had mince pies with a sell-by date of early October. Also in October comes the story that all references to Christmas have been taken out of a new episode of Thomas the Tank Engine.

In an episode called Keeping up with James, the trains compete to carry presents to children. There's a decorated tree and a choir. But instead of using the word Christmas, there are “winter holidays” and a “holiday tree.”

This early in the year the goose can still get into its jeans but the Christian soldiers have already locked and loaded. The Mail and the Telegraph are, not surprisingly, making a big deal of this.

Hilary Fortnum, daughter of Thomas author Reverend Awdry, told them she feared political correctness was eroding Christmas and that - predictably - the programme had "taken Christ out of Christmas". Just for good measure, she added that “Local councils won’t advertise Christmas carols and nativity plays in case they are sued for not being inclusive”. It's not clear what her evidence is for this claim but we can soon expect stories about schools not putting on nativity plays any more and how the lack of children putting tea towels on their heads is damaging the British tea towel industry as well as the soul of the nation.

Ann rent-a-quote Widdecombe predictably commented that “It is another example of the politically correct brigade trying to airbrush Christmas out of our lives”. Most of us would be pretty happy if Christmas was airbrushed out of our lives until at least late November.

Hit Entertainment who make the series said references to Christmas were removed because the episode is on a DVD designed to be sold all year round. They added “It was not a seasonal release specifically aimed at a Christmas audience, but we do put out seasonal releases that have Christmas in the title. Last year we had Christmas Express and next year we are planning another Christmas title.’ So it's nothing to do with being politically correct, it's to do with making money.

UK Christians complaining about discrimination and persecution should perhaps look at the growing persecution of Christians in Pakistan. In one far from isolated incident a twelve-year-old girl from a Christian family was kidnapped, raped and beaten for eight months in an attempt to make her convert to Islam. Other incidents include attacks on churches and the homes of Christians, discrimination in housing, education and employment and false allegations of blasphemy, which can potentially result in a death sentence. Or there is Youcef Nadarkhani, the Iranian pastor arrested and sentenced to death because of his faith.

But no, British Christians with their unelected bishops in the House of Lords, exemptions from equality laws and one third of state-funded schools will continue to bang on about being discriminated against and sidelined, particularly when they want the right to be homophobic. They will whine about Winterval and the birth of Little Baby Jesus not being what it used to be. And all this even before Halloween.

Friday, 7 October 2011

In the Year of Our Lord

The latest threat to everything we hold dear is the BBC ordering its staff to stop using BC and AD and use CE and BCE instead.

The BBC has been accused of ‘political correctness’ and not surprisingly, the Daily Mail is lamenting the end of civilization (again). Is the BBC really turning its back on 2000 years of Christianity? Tell that to the producers of Thought for the Day or Songs of Praise.

The Mail also reports that the Government has stepped in to protect BC/AD. They just will not let this story go, running another version of it with Andrew Marr getting all worked up, saying he would still use BC/AD - unlike the sinful Jeremy Paxman and Melvyn Bragg who use BCE/CE. Even WH Smith uses BCE/CE alongside BC/AD. What is the world coming to? Just as well Ann Widdecombe was on hand to talk to the Mail to bring us to our senses.

Then the Vatican jumped on the bandwagon, accusing the BBC of ‘historically senseless hypocrisy’ – which of course the Mail reported, with a lovely picture of Jesus to remind some of us of our sins. How many times can you write the same article in slightly different words? Many, many times.

Except that it isn’t true. The BBC said in a statement: ‘The BBC has not issued editorial guidance on the date systems. Both AD and BC, and CE and BCE are widely accepted date systems and the decision on which term to use lies with individual production and editorial teams.’ The advice about which terms to use referred only to the religion section of the BBC website. BBC’s head of religion and ethics, Aaqil Ahmed said ‘For our religion and ethics programming on BBC television and radio we generally use AD and BC”. He added "It is a shame that people seeking to make mischief should cast a shadow over the wonderful celebration of our Christian religious heritage that is Songs of Praise" - a resounding rejection of Christianity if ever I heard one.

The Mail even quotes the BBC at the end of their articles - in the interests of fairness and balance, of course - but then continues to flog the dead horse into a bloody pulp over the following days.

Incidentally, these so-called new terms (CE and BCE) became standard in schools nearly a decade ago. They stand for the Common Era and Before the Common Era. I've long wondered why AD is in Latin (anno domini) while BC is in English (before Christ). Couldn't someone have translated BC, just for consistency? AC for ante Christus, perhaps? Maybe they decided that sounded too much like anti-Christ. (My Latin is way rusty is the -us ending right?)

The story then took another twist. The ever-opportunistic Lord Carey, former archbishop of Canterbury, told the Mail that people of other religions do not object to BC/AD but that ‘In reality, we know it is the increasingly ill-tempered secularists, groups such as the National Secular Society, throwing tantrums at the mention of Christianity, not the Chief Rabbi or Britain’s imams’. I work for the NSS and can state categorically that the only time anyone has a tantrum is when the biscuit tin is empty. And that's me.

But even the gatekeepers of All Things Decent slip up sometimes. This article in the Mail's science section (yes, they have one) had the dreaded 'new' dating system in it for a while until the Thought Police spotted it and changed the date to 1045AD. Phew, close one.

The Mail has been reported to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) for continuing to run a misleading story. However, as Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre is chair of the PCC, the complaint may not get very far.