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Christian GP is given warning after expressing his religious beliefs to patient

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e4192 (Published 15 June 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e4192
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

A Christian GP who was accused of “pushing” his religion on a vulnerable young patient has been given a formal warning by the General Medical Council’s investigation committee.

Richard Scott, a partner in Bethesda Medical Practice in Margate, Kent, was said to have “crossed the line” in suggesting to the 24 year old man, whose mother claimed he was suicidal, that Jesus could help him.

Committee chairman Christopher Hanning told Scott, “During a consultation with a patient in August 2010 you expressed your religious beliefs in a way that distressed your patient. You subsequently confirmed, via national media, that you had sought to suggest your own faith had more to offer than that of the patient.

“In this way you sought to impose your own beliefs on your patient. You thereby caused the patient distress through insensitive expression of your religious beliefs. “

Scott was originally offered a warning by the committee without a hearing, but refused to accept it and opted to have the allegations aired in a public hearing by the committee instead. The man, known as “Patient A,” was allowed to give evidence by telephone in a closed session, a move described by Paul Diamond, Scott’s lawyer, as “unlawful, secret justice.”

The Bethesda practice declares on its website that all six partners are practising Christians who “feel that the offer of talking to you on spiritual matters is of great benefit.” Those not wanting this are assured it will not affect their medical care and they should tell the doctor or “drop a note to the practice manager.”

Hanning said Scott’s actions were in direct conflict with GMC guidance, which states that doctors must not impose their beliefs on patients, or “cause distress by the inappropriate or insensitive expression of religious, political, or other beliefs or views.” A’s own religion was not disclosed by the GMC.

The committee found that Scott had told A “that he will keep suffering until he is ready to hand his suffering to Jesus” or words to that effect, and the GP accepted in his testimony that he had referred to the devil during the consultation.

Scott was not A’s own GP and he had not previously met him but had seen him at the urgent request of his mother. He had also referred him to the local psychiatric services two days before.

The committee held that Scott’s actions fell “just below” the threshold for a finding that his fitness to practise was impaired. The warning will remain on the list of registered medical practitioners for five years and, after that, may be disclosed to employers on request.

During the hearing, Scott said it was “an absolute fabrication” that he had told A he would “suffer eternally” if he did not turn to Jesus.

“I said you may find that Christianity offers you something that your own faith doesn’t currently offer you. This is a man who has walked away from his own faith, which therefore doesn’t help him at all.”

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e4192

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