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Case against Christian GP is adjourned to try to persuade patient to give evidence

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d6158 (Published 26 September 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6158
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

A Christian GP accused of “crossing the line” in discussing religion with a vulnerable patient won a temporary reprieve when the General Medical Council adjourned the case against him to make another attempt to persuade the patient to give evidence.

The GMC had proposed giving Richard Scott a warning about his behaviour, but he refused to accept it and opted instead for an oral hearing before its investigations committee.

On 23 September, the second day of the two day hearing in Manchester, the committee adjourned “to make a further attempt to secure the attendance of Patient A,” who has so far refused to appear before the committee. His absence prevented Dr Scott’s lawyer cross examining him to challenge his account of what happened at the consultation in August 2010.

GMC guidance says that doctors may not impose their personal or religious beliefs on patients and that if such issues are raised this must not be done “insensitively” or “inappropriately.”

The committee heard that Dr Scott had seen the 24 year old man at his surgery in Margate, Kent, after his mother had said that he was “suicidal.” Paul Ozin, for the GMC, said, “A line was crossed because Dr Scott expressed his personal religious belief to a person he knew was a vulnerable patient in a way that was plainly liable to cause the patient distress.

“He suggested that Jesus or Christianity—his own religion—offered something exclusive and superior to that offered by the patient’s own religion. It is a matter of record that Patient A subsequently complained about Dr Scott and said he was very upset about the consultation and he was offended by what he saw as the belittling of his own religion.”

Paul Diamond, for Dr Scott, said, “The portrayal of events by my learned friend of insensitive and belittling and persistent discussion of religion are not accepted. Towards the end of the consultation, for a matter of minutes, Dr Scott made his professional judgment that matters of religious faith were appropriate to talk about in the context of this young man.

“Issues of religion were discussed. I don’t think there is any dispute that it is permissible within the guidance provided by the GMC. The only question is was it appropriate and sensitive?” He said the GP did not accept that the young man was a vulnerable patient.

Dr Scott told the BMJ in May that he had raised the possibility that Christianity might help his patient only in the last five minutes of a 20 minute consultation, after first asking his permission and being told to “go for it.” His mother then brought a complaint to the GMC, saying that Dr Scott had “pushed religion” on her son (BMJ 2011;342:d3275, doi:10.1136/bmj.d3275).

The Christian Legal Centre, which represents Dr Scott, said it would consider applying for judicial review if the GMC went on with the case.

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6158

Footnotes

  • bmj.com Lobby Watch: Christian Medical Fellowship (BMJ 2011;343:d4586, doi:10.1136/bmj.d4586)

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