Interesting consequence of expression of religious belief

GP rapped for talking about God with patient

A family doctor, Dr Richard Scott, fears losing his job after he was reprimanded by the General Medical Council for talking to a patient about God.

Dr Richard Scott in his Margate surgery Photo: WILL WINTERCROSS

By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent 9:00PM BST 21 May 2011

The committed Christian, was accused of “harassment” and told by the medical regulator that he risked bringing the profession into disrepute by discussing his religious beliefs.

The Cambridge-educated doctor has refused to accept a formal warning on his record, and is instead taking legal action to fight the censure.

His case follows a series of high-profile disputes between Christians and their employers over their freedom to express their beliefs, including an electrician who displayed a cross in his van and a nurse who prayed for a patient.

Dr Scott, 50, a married father of three, saw the patient who is at centre of the complaint in 2010.

Following the consultation, the patient’s mother complained that the doctor had abused his position by “pushing religion” on her son.

He argues that he acted within official guidelines, having asked if he could talk about his Christian beliefs to the patient, who is of a different faith, and having ended the conversation as soon as he was asked to.

The conversation only turned to religious matters after they had fully explored the medical options, according to Dr Scott.

“He viewed his problem as purely medical issue and I said it might be more than that,” he said.

“It was a consensual discussion between two adults.”

After receiving the complaint, the GMC told Dr Scott that it was taking the matter seriously, and last month it sent a letter warning him over his conduct.

The regulator told the doctor that the way he expressed his religious beliefs had “distressed” the patient and did “not meet with the standards required of a doctor”.

Dr Scott, a doctor for 28 years, works at the Bethesda Medical Centre in Margate, Kent. Its six partners are all Christians and state on the official NHS Choices website that they are likely to discuss spiritual matters with patients during consultations.

Dr Scott, who worships at St Paul’s Cliftonville, an Anglican church, said he has shared his faith with thousands of patients in the past because he believes that there is a spiritual element to healing. He had had “a handful of complaints” in the past, but they had all been resolved locally and none had escalated into matters for the regulator.

He is so determined to clear his name that he is preparing to take the case to an appeal even though he has been warned this could result in him being struck off.

“What’s happened to me is an injustice and I want to stand up for Christians who have been getting hammered in the workplace,” he said.

The Christian Legal Centre, which seeks to promote religious freedom, is handling Dr Scott’s case and has instructed Paul Diamond, the leading human rights lawyer.

Andrea Williams, the founder and director of the centre, called on the GMC to back the GP and not to 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,” she said.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: “Our guidance, which all doctors must follow, is clear. Doctors should not normally discuss their personal beliefs with patients unless those beliefs are directly relevant to the patient’s care.

“They also must not impose their beliefs on patients, or cause distress by the inappropriate or insensitive expression of religious, political or other beliefs or views.”