GMC formally warns Dr Scott for evangelising a patient
We welcome the GMC’s determination making it clear that doctors – whether religious or not – must set aside their own personal beliefs and not evangelise when treating patients, far less suggest that they adopt a different belief. Doing so needlessly puts patients in a difficult position.
There is no reliable evidence that any belief system has benefited health. Basing treatment on this premise is therefore potentially harmful to the patient and to the doctor-patient relationship.
Patients consult their doctors for their professional expertise and not for their doctor’s religious beliefs. For GPs to share their own religious beliefs during consultations is almost always inappropriate; attempts to proselytise or to claim one or other religion as somehow better than another is unprofessional and should never take place. Doing so puts often vulnerable patients into the uncomfortable position of feeling the need to take account of their doctor’s beliefs. Some patients may feel unable or unwilling to contradict the doctor because of the power imbalance between doctor and patient. Should a patient raise religious matters during a consultation, the doctor must not take this as an opportunity to evangelise, but if appropriate may explore the patient’s own ideas and concerns.
The allegation made by Dr Scott that the GMC has specifically targeted Christianity is perverse. The GMC and many members of the public have been given great cause for concern by the unfounded claims that Dr Scott has made to this patient, and has admitted he has made to thousands more. We would fully expect the GMC to take similar action against doctors of all faiths or none who behaved in a similarly inappropriate fashion and who risked undermining the confidence of the public in the professionalism of medical practitioners.
We also oppose publicly-funded NHS General Practices being labelled as being of any religion or belief. Labelling General Practices as being of any one belief system risks giving patients the impression that only such patients will be welcomed, and that other patients are, at best, tolerated. This puts unacceptable pressure on some patients to decide whether to actively opt out of spiritual care, as they are invited to do in Dr Scott’s practice, or go along with the religious element for fear of alienation. Forcing such a dilemma on patients undermines the doctor-patient relationship – a relationship based primarily on trust. Particularly where there is a limited choice of GPs, this compromises patients’ entitlement to publicly-funded medical treatment.
GMC Statement http://www.gmc-uk.org/news/13333.asp