Welcome to the Secular Medical Forum

The Secular Medical Forum campaigns for a secular approach to current major health issues.

We are opposed to religious influences in Medicine where these affect the manner in which medical practice is performed. We campaign to protect patients from the harm caused by the imposition of religious values and activities on people who do not share the same values and beliefs.

The SMF directs itself to the improvement of the human condition. SMF members do not recognise the assumed authority of religious bodies and we challenge their traditional privileges in healthcare service provision or decision-making.

Membership of the Secular Medical Forum is open to all health care professionals in the UK and their respective students. Non health care professionals are welcome to join the SMF as associate members. Please contact Dr Antony Lempert at antony@secularmedicalforum.org.uk.

Latest News

Should infant circumcision no longer be permitted? Join the debate: Wed 16th Oct, 7.30pm in Oxford

13 Oct 2013

This Wednesday 16th October, SMF Chair Dr Antony Lempert will debate with the Jewish human rights barrister Adam Wagner on the topic: “This House believes non-therapeutic infant male circumcision should no longer be permitted” in Oxford at 7:30pm in The Wig and Pen on George Street.

https://www.facebook.com/events/601721856536788/

 

Adam Wagner debates Antony Lempert

 

The SMF encourages all to attend for what promises to be a lively and enlightening debate!

Dr Antony Lempert is a GP and Chair of the Secular Medical Forum and has debated on this topic previously, including with Jonathan Arkush of the Board of Deputies. Adam Wagner is a barrister at 1 Crown Office Row chambers, and editor of the UK Human Rights blog.

The SMF is a not for profit organisation dedicated to protecting patients from the harmful imposition of doctors’ and other people’s personal religious beliefs. The SMF is run by volunteer healthcare professionals.

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Nordic children’s ombudsmen take historic step to protect children’s rights

03 Oct 2013

SMF PRESS RELEASE

Release Date: Tuesday 1st October 2013

At a meeting in Oslo, Norway, on Monday 30th September 2013, Nordic ombudsmen for children along with Nordic paediatricians and paediatric surgeons agreed on a resolution urging their national governments to work for a ban on non-therapeutic circumcision of underage boys.[i]

The children’s ombudsmen of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland along with the Chair of the Danish Children’s Council and the Children’s spokesperson for Greenland passed a resolution to: ‘Let boys decide for themselves whether they want to be circumcised’.

The ombudsmen concluded that: ‘Circumcision without a medical indication on a person unable to provide informed consent conflicts with basic principles of medical ethics’. They found the procedure ‘to be in conflict with the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, articles 12, and 24 (3) which say that children should have the right to express their own views and must be protected from traditional rituals that may be harmful to their health.’

The UK Secular Medical Forum (SMF) applauds this historic resolution and urges the UK and devolved Governments to work towards protecting all UK children at risk of forced genital cutting.

Dr Antony Lempert, a GP, and SMF chair said: ‘This important statement by the Nordic child protection experts is grounded in common sense. Children’s basic rights to bodily integrity and to form their own beliefs should not be overridden because of their parents’ religious or cultural practices.’

Dr Lempert added: ‘With an increasing awareness of serious irreversible harm caused to boys and girls from forced genital cutting it is time for the genitals of all children to be protected from people with knives and strong religious or cultural beliefs. There can be no justification for healthy children to be forcibly cut. All children deserve society’s protection from serious harm.

 

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The SMF is a not for profit organisation dedicated to protecting patients from the harmful imposition of doctors’ and other people’s personal religious beliefs. The SMF is run by volunteer healthcare professionals.

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SMF Chair debates circumcision with Jonathan Arkush

30 Jul 2013

PRESS RELEASE – 30 July 2013 (No embargo)

At a debate organised by the UCLU Atheist, Secular and Humanist Society on 28 February 2013, the chair of the Secular Medical Forum, Dr Antony Lempert, debated the topic of circumcision with Jonathan Arkush, Vice-President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

It is a Jewish tradition to cut off the foreskin of baby boys when they are eight days old.  This operation was described by the Royal Dutch Medical Association as ‘a violation of children’s rights to autonomy and physical integrity’ and it was recently declared unlawful by a district court in Cologne. While discussing the case which led to the Cologne court’s decision, Mr Arkush said:

“incidentally two world rulers in modern times who sought to ban circumcision were Hitler and Stalin, so that’s the company you are in if you seek to ban it”

The Secular Medical Forum found this an unhelpful comment. Many individuals working in the field of child protection – though not world rulers – are also seeking a ban on this medically unnecessary operation on non-consenting babies, and they would be offended by any potential association with Hitler or Stalin. Dr Lempert, who is also the GP representative member of a Local Safeguarding Children’s Board, responded by saying that he abhors anti-semitism and explained that anti-semitism is happening when well-meaning people fail to protect children of Jewish parents from the harm caused by ritual circumcision.

The full debate is available here.

In March 2013 the SMF posted the original text of this press release, including the statement that Mr Arkush “compared all people who oppose ritual circumcision, including those working in child protection, to Hitler.” The SMF now retracts this statement and has apologised to Mr Arkush for the allegation that he compared all people who oppose ritual circumcision, including those working in child protection, to Hitler. In fact, we may only conclude from Mr Arkush’s quote that he was associating those who sought to ban circumcision, rather than those who oppose circumcision, with Hitler and Stalin. As mentioned above, the SMF nevertheless finds this an unhelpful contribution to the debate. Those who allege that campaigners against ritual childhood circumcision are being anti-semitic (or invoke the spectre of Nazi Germany) are directed to members and groups of the very same religions who themselves want to see an end to the practice. The SMF is aware of Jewish groups who are against the practice of circumcision. There are several practising Jewish parents who do not circumcise their boys and have explained in detail why. Peaceful alternatives to the naming ceremony are also in use by several rabbis.

The SMF works to protect all people from the imposition of other people’s beliefs in medicine.  The SMF supports freedom of religion, alongside freedom from religion, especially for children. The SMF campaigns against all forms of ritual genital cutting and campaigns for a safer world where children can grow up with an intact body and can make their own decisions later in life.  The SMF is a non-profit campaign organisation run by volunteers for the protection of patients.

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SMF challenges Ed Miliband’s naive support for ritual circumcision

24 Jul 2013

PRESS RELEASE – 24 July 2013 (No embargo)

 

On 7 March 2013, Ed Miliband told an audience in London that he supports ritual genital cutting of children.  In reference to circumcision and kosher food, the leader of the Labour party said:

“These are important traditions … Ways of life must be preserved.”

The Secular Medical Forum condemns this announcement and asks Mr Miliband to rethink his support for ritual genital cutting.

It is a Jewish tradition to cut off the foreskin of baby boys when they are eight days old.  This operation was described by the Royal Dutch Medical Association as a ‘violation of children’s rights to autonomy and physical integrity’ and it was recently declared unlawful by a district court in Cologne. The Secular Medical Forum questions why Mr Miliband supports ritual circumcision, given that it exposes the child to significant risks including bleeding, infection and death.

The Secular Medical Forum calls on Mr Miliband to prioritise the rights of children over harmful religious traditions. He should not be misled by misplaced allegations of anti-semitism against those striving to protect children from harm. Indeed, it is those who would permit circumcision of children of Jewish parents who are failing to guarantee them the protection otherwise afforded to gentile children. These children should not be denied the safeguarding afforded by ethical principles and practice which have already outlawed any other permanent, medically unnecessary surgery on non-consenting minors. Supporters of ritual genital cutting, including Mr Miliband, should not attempt to preserve a way of life at the expense of the genital integrity of a child who is too young to give consent to the operation.

The SMF works to protect all people from the imposition of other people’s beliefs in medicine.  The SMF supports freedom of religion, alongside freedom from religion, especially for children. The SMF campaigns against all forms of ritual genital cutting and campaigns for a safer world where children can grow up with an intact body and can make their own decisions later in life.  The SMF is a non-profit campaign organisation run by volunteers for the protection of patients.

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Hospital chaplains largely unaffected by cuts to NHS frontline services

27 Jun 2013

The National Secular Society has gathered data via Freedom of Information (FOI) requests which demonstrate that hospital chaplaincy services have been largely spared from the cuts to NHS frontline services. Read their full article here or download their interim results.

The Secular Medical Forum opposes taxpayer funding of chaplains where they are recruited on the basis of their religious belief. Read our full statement on this issue.

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Secular doctors call on the GMC to revise guidance that gives green light to religious doctors to obstruct patient care

17 Apr 2013

Secular Medical Forum, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
http://www.secularmedicalforum.org.uk – Registered Company No. 7237231

 

PRESS RELEASE, 17 April 2013 (No embargo)

Secular doctors call on the GMC to revise guidance that gives green light to religious doctors to obstruct patient care.

Secular doctors called on the GMC urgently to revise guidance on personal belief and medical practice[i], effective from 22 April 2013 that allows religious doctors ‘to opt out of providing a particular procedure because of (the doctor’s) beliefs and values…’[ii]

‘The new guidance gives unrestrained freedom to religious doctors to refuse to provide the most appropriate treatment options’, says Dr Lempert, a GP, and chair of the Secular Medical Forum’ (SMF).

‘The guidance also contradicts existing BMA policy[iii] that the right of doctors to refuse to treat patients for reasons of conscientious objection ‘should be restricted to those protected in law and to withdrawing life-sustaining treatment…’

‘Patients must not be placed at a disadvantage by their doctor’s personal beliefs’ said Dr Lempert. Patients should be able to rely on their doctor’s professional expertise not being compromised by his/her religious beliefs. It is not in patients’ best interests to allow wholesale religious exemptions to the provision of standard medical care’

‘The new guidance fails to limit conscientious objection to the areas such as abortion[iv] that are narrowly defined by legislation, making way for a potentially open-ended refusal to provide medical care on religious grounds. As a result, patients will be left vulnerable to the personal whims of their doctor.’

The Secular Medical Forum criticised the new guidance which recommends that doctors ‘must do (their) best to make sure that patients are aware of (their) objection in advance.’[v] The SMF is concerned that this places an unreasonable onus of responsibility on patients to investigate in advance their doctor’s personal views.

Dr Lempert commented: ‘The GMC should remind doctors of the professional responsibilities which accompany the privilege of their chosen profession. Patients cannot always choose to see a doctor of their choice; so the guidelines should make clear that patients’ best interests and reasonable treatment options should never be restricted because of conflict with the doctor’s own personal beliefs, except where prescribed by law.’

 

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The SMF is a not for profit organisation working to protect patients from the harmful imposition of other people’s personal religious beliefs. The SMF is run by volunteer healthcare professionals.

For further comment and information, contact SMF chair Dr Antony Lempert

by email antony@secularmedicalforum.org.uk

or telephone: 07967 837041

 


[iii] Motion passed at BMA ARM 2008

[iv] Section 4(1) of the 1967 Abortion Act

[v] http://www.gmc-uk.org/Personal_beliefs_and_medical_practice.pdf_51462245.pdf  para 10

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SMF meeting at the BMA ARM 2013. Prof Edzard Ernst: Alternative medicine: Facts and fallacies

07 Apr 2013

Edzard Ernst will be speaking at the SMF Welcome Reception at the BMA ARM 2013All BMA attendees at the Bristish Medical Association’s ARM are warmly invited to join Edzard Ernst who will be reflecting on his work as Emeritus Professor of Complementary Medicine.

This will be the fifth welcome reception that the SMF has hosted at the ARM.  Professor Ernst’s talk is titled Alternative Medicine: Facts and Fallacies.  The reception will start at 17:30 on Sunday 23rd June in the Stirling Suite, Sheraton Grand Hotel, 1 Festival Square, Edinburgh, EH3 9SR.  Attendance is free and a complimenary refreshment is offered.  Notice of your intention to attend would be apprciated – please email Dr Antony Lempert: Antony@SecularMedicalForum.org.uk

SMF flyer for BMA ARM 2013 

The Secular Medical Forum hosts these events as an alternative to the BMA’s religiously themed session for thanksgiving.  The SMF welcomes attendance from those of all faiths and none.

 

 

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Secular doctors fear that new GMC guidance will fail to protect children and is probably in conflict with the Equality Act.

02 Apr 2013

Secular doctors say new GMC guidance on personal belief and medical practice[i] effective from April 22nd will expose some children to serious harm. Referring to ritual male circumcision, doctors are now instructed that they ‘must include parents’ religious beliefs’[ii] when assessing the child’s best interests. Secular doctors are dismayed that the guidance will support doctors who defer to parents’ insistence that it is in a healthy child’s best interests to undergo forced genital cutting for no medical reason.

Dr Lempert, a GP and chair of the Secular Medical Forum, said: ‘This new guidance conflicts with international medical consensus. Senior representatives of European paediatric associations, including the British Association of Paediatric Surgeons, recently stated[iii] that circumcision ‘constitutes a violation of the UN convention on the rights of the child’ and can have ‘serious long-term consequences’.’

‘The GMC is failing to protect children by not distinguishing between reasonable decisions necessarily made by parents on behalf of children in need of medical care, and parental requests to surgically impose their own religious beliefs on the healthy body of a child unable to give consent.’

‘The guidelines support doctors who collude with parents seeking circumcision for non-medical reasons. Proper child safeguarding procedures should be followed when a parent seeks forced cutting of their child’s genitals. That parents have voluntarily chosen to follow a religion for which circumcision is an obligation is not a sufficient reason to permit the child to be harmed in this way and should form no part of GMC guidance to doctors.’

‘The SMF considers this GMC exception to child safeguarding only for male children subject to forced genital cutting to be of serious concern. According to legal advice received by the SMF, the new guidance incites doctors to breach the 2010 Equality Act.

‘The SMF is shocked that if both parents refuse what is considered to be the most appropriate treatment for their child, doctors are now told to ‘look for treatment options that will accommodate’ their (parents’) beliefs.’[iv] Using less effective treatments will rarely be in the best interests of a child.

‘The SMF calls on the GMC to instruct doctors that the interests and safety of a child must not be overridden by the religious or cultural beliefs of parents. Doctors should be advised that they must not cut into the normal genitalia of a child under any circumstances.’

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