As Dr Richard Scott , general practitioner in the United Kingdom gets ready for an appeal against the General medical Council’s written warning to him for suggesting the curative power of the Christian faith to one of his patients, we get an opportunity to reflect upon some of the peculiarities that this incident has thrown up.
As Dr Scott has mentioned in his BBC radio five live interview, he speaks from personal experience. In addition, he is ready to quote scientific evidence that faith does have a positive and beneficial effect on our health in his defence. If he can prove it beyond doubt that faith can indeed enhance health, then possibly and the General medical Council cannot argue that he acted irrationally. Legally, if it is then adjudged that he acted in the patient’s best interests as well as there was scientific evidence b backing his assertions, it would be perhaps difficult to justify the warning that he received.
Dr Scott also raises the issue that the spiritual dimension is largely absent from contemporary Western medicine. It is undeniable that the great advances in medicine that has prolonged our lifespan, have resulted from application of the principles of basic science. However, quality of life issues from the perspective of the patient as a whole is a relatively new development in modern medicine. Studies demonstrating the efficacy of meditative and other religious practices on one’s psychological health has been a relatively new area of study, and the lack of holistic focus in our current health care delivery system has been pointed out from several quarters.
Without a shred of doubt, Dr Scott acted in the patient’s best interests, and out of his personal conviction. National health service hospitals in the United Kingdom do have official chaplaincy services, and if he argues that because he did not have a chaplain at his practice, prompting him to do what he felt was necessary, it would be hard to prove that his action was way out of line from the policy of the healthcare service in Britain.
That he chose to specifically name Jesus in his defence on radio, could prove mildly embarrassing out of political correctness. What if his patient was Islamic or Buddhist ? In that case, would he still have used an alternative religious figurehead for his prescription of a religious cure, or simply would have ignored the issue based on his personal convictions?
This would probably be the crux of the issue of as he launches his appeal, in a publicly funded healthcare system which pursues a secular ideology, to what extent can one go to state his or her personal beliefs in a professional context? Religion still perhaps place a special role in socio political correctness, and Dr Scott would not have found himself in the same position as he is now if he had recommended the some personal dietary fad or even some non-scientifically proven form of alternative or complementary therapy.
In matters of spiritual correctness, it seems, we have quite some distance to go.
Doctor Scott’s radio interview with BBC radio live can be found on:
BBC News : 24th May, 2011
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