Prescribing Jesus gets doctor unjustly censured

A Christian doctor in England has been threatened with an official warning from his professional body for discussing Jesus with a patient, The (London) Sunday Times reported.

Richard Scott, a doctor for 28 years, is under investigation by the General Medical Council (GMC) and faces disciplinary action after he suggested to a 24-year-old man that he might find solace in Christianity.

Scott, who practices at a medical center in Margate, east of London, well known for having Christian doctors, insists he only raised his spiritual beliefs after carrying out a thorough and lengthy consultation, during which medical checks and referrals for further care were arranged.

Here are the details in a report from Fox News:

When the man’s mother inquired of the consultation, however, her son apparently replied, “He just said I need Jesus.” This prompted his mother to refer Scott to the GMC, claiming that he had not offered medical advice during the consultation but instead talked about Jesus.

The young man, who has been described as “in a rut and in need of help” grew up in a different religion but his faith had lapsed. He has continued to seek treatment from the practice despite the complaint filed by his mother.

The GMC has written to Scott suggesting he accept an official warning but the GP (family doctor), who has an unblemished record as a medic, has decided to fight the allegations and stand up to what he believes is a politically correct trend in Britain to persecute Christians for expressing their faith in the workplace.

Scott fears that if he accepts the warning, and discusses his Christian beliefs with other patients, he could be struck off.

He maintains he acted professionally and says the complaint was made against him in the knowledge that professional bodies are nervous about claims of a religious nature.

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 for an 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 in this practice, but by the patient’s mother.

Scott is a partner at the Bethesda medical center in Margate, Kent. The six partners at the practice are all Christians and it has taken a biblical name. Practice leaflets and message boards publicize the doctors’ religion and invite patients to raise Christian beliefs with them.

My belief, based upon this report, is that Dr. Scott acted completely appropriately and compassionately. I hope he’ll continue to vigorously fight these scandalous accusations. To ask him to not bring into the exam room all of who he is intellectually and spiritually is to ask him to be an incomplete and uncaring physician.

In a scholarly article on this topic, “Should Clinicians Incorporate Positive Spirituality Into Their Practices? What Does the Evidence Say?” I wrote the following:

Most of the rhetoric decrying the incorporation of basic and positive spiritual care into clinical practice is not based on reliable evidence. We briefly review the current evidence, which demonstrates that

  1. there is frequently a positive association between positive spirituality and mental and physical health and well being,
  2. most patients desire to be offered basic spiritual care by their clinicians,
  3. most patients censure our professions for ignoring their spiritual needs,
  4. most clinicians believe that spiritual interventions would help their patients but have little training in providing basic spiritual assessment or care,
  5. professional associations and educational institutions are beginning to provide learners and clinicians information on how to incorporate spirituality and practice, and
  6. anecdotal evidence indicates that clinicians having received such training find it immediately helpful and do apply it to their practice.

I conclude the article by writing:

… the evidence to date demonstrates trained or experienced clinicians should encourage positive spirituality with their patients and that there is no evidence that such therapy is, in general, harmful. Further, unless or until there is evidence of harm from a clinician’s provision of either basic spiritual care or a spiritually sensitive practice, interested clinicians and systems should learn to assess their patients’ spiritual health and to provide indicated and desired spiritual intervention. Clinicians and health care systems should not, without compelling data to the contrary, deprive their patients of the spiritual support and comfort on which their hope, health, and well-being may hinge.

To discuss spiritual matters with a patient, especially with the patient’s permission, not only provides the highest quality care, but highly compassionate care.

Dr. Scott is in my prayers and I hope (1) this matter is quickly settled in his favor and (2) that it will in no way impede his provision of spiritual care to his other patients.

 

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1 Response to Prescribing Jesus gets doctor unjustly censured

  1. This is what happens when we let down our guard and allow more and more government intervention into the practice of medicine. We physicians lose our independence and become subject to the whims of the politicians “whose sole qualification to rule us is their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun.” We still have a modicum of independence in America, but not for long if we do not speak up and take action.

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