Physician accused of 'pushing religion' will fight reprimand
A Christian general practitioner is fighting a reprimand from the General Medical Council (GMC) after he talked about God with a patient.
Dr Richard Scott, a partner in a medical centre in Margate, where all the doctors are Christian, saw the patient last year, at the request of the patient’s mother. At the end of the consultation, Dr Scott and the patient discussed religion. The patient has continued to seek treatment from the practice, but his mother filed a complaint, claiming that Dr Scott had tried to “push religion” on her son.
Dr Scott, a former missionary, then received a letter from the GMC threatening to put an official warning on his file. He has refused to accept this, and has chosen to fight the case with support from the Christian Legal Centre and a human-rights barrister, Paul Diamond.
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.”
The medical practice at which Dr Scott works is well known in the community for having Christian partners, and the NHS Choices website states that the practice is likely to discuss spiritual matters with patients during consultations.
Dr Scott worships at St Paul’s, Cliftonville, and says that he has shared his faith with thousands of patients over his 28 years in medicine. He said that he often invited people to Alpha courses at his church: out of eight he might invite, two might come, and one might have his or her life transformed as a result, he mentioned.
He said that the GMC’s accusation that he had harassed a vulnerable patient was “disgraceful”. “I offered a needy patient a way out of the situation.”
He has written articles in the past on whether GPs should evangelise. In one, he wrote: “Christian GPs are in a unique position to reach the lost in their local area. Sharing the gospel with patients is not an abuse of trust because God himself gives us the authority, and salvation is their greatest need.”
The chief executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship, Peter Saunders, has backed Dr Scott’s case, and has accused the GMC of acting disproportionately. “Good doctors do not treat their patients solely as biological or biochemical machines.
“Rather, they practise ‘whole-person’ medicine that is not concerned solely with physical needs, but also addresses social, psychological, behavioural, and spiritual factors that may be contributing to a person’s illness.
“Here we have the case of a doctor who has talked to many patients about faith matters, and who has had only a very small handful of complaints. . .
“From the facts of the case as reported, it appears that the General Medical Council has acted with inappropriate and disproportionate force, and appears to have applied its very reasonable guidance in a selective and unbalanced way.”
The founder and director of the Christian Legal Centre, Andrea Minichiello Williams, called on the GMC to back Dr Scott, and not bow to “political or emotional pressure”. “He acted within their own guidelines, and his unblemished record should not be tarnished —even by a letter on his file.”