New Year 2013 – Thank you for all the support in 2012

02 Jan 2013

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In 2012, many have contributed to the protection of patients from imposed religious harm.

Thanks are due:

-To the Falconer Commission for reviewing the evidence and publishing its independent conclusion that the current law on assisted dying is inadequate and incoherent.

– To the GMC for not being intimidated by the Christian Legal Centre into dropping the investigation against Dr Richard Scott, the proselytising GP who told his distressed patient that ‘the Devil haunts those who don’t turn to Jesus’.

– To the BBC for daring to air 2 Sunday morning discussions about ritual male circumcision.

– To the National Secular Society for their continued huge support.

– To the International Humanist and Ethical Union for submitting a detailed document to both the UN human rights council and the UN committee on the Rights of the child and for asking questions of the UN about religious child maltreatment.

– To the Broadcasting Committee of Advertising Practice for ruling that anti-abortion campaigners should no longer be permitted to mislead vulnerable women in their advertising.

– To Everyone who responded to GMC consultations this year.

– To all SMF-associated organisations and individuals working hard to protect individual people from variants on a theme of religiously-inspired harm.

– To Individual members of the SMF who have written articles, or posted relevant stories on twitter, Facebook or blogs.

We have made some good progress so far, yet still there are regular stories in the UK and abroad of people being harmed by religious interference or of people being prevented from accessing the reasonable care or treatment they could reasonably expect, because of religious interference.

In 2012 these people have included:

Kristy Bamu, tortured to death by relatives after being accused of demon possession.

Angelo Ofori-Mintah, a 28 day old baby who bled to death in London in February within 48 hours of a rabbi inflicting a mortal wound on his normal infant penis.

Malala Yousafzai, a 14y/o Pakistani schoolgirl activist for women’s rights and education brought to the UK in September after she was shot in the head and neck by those who accused her of ‘promoting secularism’.

Tony Nicklinson, a man desperate to be helped to die painlessly after years of locked-in syndrome, but forced eventually to starve himself to death within a week of the High Court ruling that only parliament could legislate for assisted dying. The last parliamentary attempt to introduce such a law was frustrated by the protestant bishops privileged with 26 automatic seats in the House of Lords.

Savita Halappanavar, a 31y/o non-Catholic dentist who died in Ireland after being refused a potentially life-saving abortion by health care professionals who told her that Ireland was ‘a Catholic country’

They and many more like them suffered because of a religious belief they didn’t hold.

Increasingly, traditional deference to religion is being challenged both by changes in public opinion in response to recurrent stories of religiously-inspired harm and by each one of us when we speak out and give a name to religious harm.

Thank you to every one of you who has engaged in debate, or discussed, tweeted, emailed or written to challenge one or other of the many faces of religious harm in medicine: from homophobic sexual orientation conversion efforts, through NHS ring-fenced chaplaincy money for the religious, to religious bishops obstructing parliamentary legislation, to the forced religiously-inspired cutting of children’s genitalia, to proselytising vulnerable patients, to the religious obstruction of access to reproductive health care services.

What is remarkable is that we are still having to work towards a world in which the religious beliefs of a doctor or nurse do not subvert and frustrate the reasonable human  rights, needs or beliefs of other people.

With our continued and combined efforts, we are on track to continue the excellent progress we have made so far.

You can follow the SMF on twitter: @SecularMedForum

and on facebook:  Secular Medical Forum


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