By Peter Wooding
A Christian doctor with 28 years experience has been reported to the General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK, and fears he could lose his job after he discussed his faith in Jesus with a patient last year.
Dr Richard Scott, who works at Bethesda Medical Centre in Margate, Kent – a practice well-known for having Christian partners – has been threatened with an Official Warning by the GMC and is currently under investigation.
According to the Christian Legal Centre in 2010, Dr Scott saw a patient on the practice list at the request of the patient’s mother. At the end of the consultation, the patient and doctor discussed religion, each being of different faiths. The patient has continued to seek treatment from the practice, but his mother filed an official complaint, claiming that the GP had not offered medical advice during a consultation, but instead, talked about Jesus!
The Christian Legal Centre said the GMC has written to Dr Scott offering a ‘compromise’ decision to the disciplinary complaint of placing an Official Warning on his file. However, the General Practitioner is calling on his professional body to strike-out the complaint on the basis that the complaint was from a mother who was not medically qualified to comment on what treatment, if any, a medical practitioner should prescribe and, the GMC’s own guidelines state that it is acceptable to present faith to a patient as long as it is done gently and sensitively.
Dr Scott, who has an unblemished record as a medic, says it is totally unacceptable for his professional reputation and official file to contain a rebuke for acting both professionally, and within the guidelines. He claims the complaint has been made knowing that professional bodies are nervous about claims of a religious nature, and therefore it is a way of getting back at the GP.
Dr Scott said: “I only discussed my faith at the end of a lengthy medical consultation after exploring the various interventions that the patient had previously tried, and after promising to follow up the patient’s request appointment with other medical professionals.
“I only discussed mutual faith after obtaining the patient’s permission. In our conversation, I said that personally, I had found having faith in Jesus helped me and could help the patient. At no time did the patient indicate that they were offended, or that they wanted to stop the discussion. If that had been the case, I would have immediately ended the conversation.
“This complaint was brought to the GMC not by the patient, who has continued to be a patient at this practice, but by the patient’s mother.”
In an article in the Telegraph Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said doctors should not normally discuss their personal beliefs with patients “unless those beliefs are directly relevant to the patient’s care”.
“They also must not impose their beliefs on patients, or cause distress by the inappropriate or insensitive expression of religious, political or other beliefs or views,” he said.
But the Christian Legal Centre reports the medical practice at which Dr Scott works is well known in the community for having Christian partners and is named after a Biblical name. Dr Scott says he has talked about his faith with many patients over the years, and many of them have been encouraged. Dr Scott, who for seven years has been a worshipper at St Paul’s Church, Cliftonville (CofE), is so determined to clear his professional name that he has instructed the Christian Legal Centre to advise him in his case. They, in turn, are using the leading human rights lawyer, Paul Diamond as lead counsel.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “It is a shame that Dr Scott has been reported to the GMC because of his Christian views. Dr Scott is an experienced GP who has helped thousands of patients over the years.
“The complaint, on religious grounds, appears to be a smokescreen to express frustration and to disagree publicly with the professional treatment offered. However, the GMC must not bow to political or emotional pressure in this case and should back the GP 100 per-cent, as he acted within their own guidelines, and his unblemished record should not be tarnished – even by a letter on his file.”
“Many patients are helped when a Doctor, in the natural course of a discussion, talks about their spiritual needs. This is all Dr Scott was doing and he should not be punished for this or prevented from doing so in the future.”
According to the Telegraph Dr Peter Saunders, chief executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship, which has 4,000 members including about 2,000 GPs, criticised the GMC.
He said the “clear implication” of the GMC guidelines was that a doctor should be allowed to express his personal beliefs in a way that is “appropriate and sensitive”.
“It does seem to me that the GMC have overreacted by censuring him,” he said.
“All good doctors try to treat their patients as whole persons, not just biochemical machines. That does sometimes include spiritual matters, dealing with questions of meaning and purpose.” –Peter Wooding, European Bureau Chief, ASSIST News Service