Bishop Tom Williams, Chairman of the Bishops’ Conference Healthcare Reference Group, is urging Catholic healthcare professionals to respond to the General Medical Council (GMC) consultation on Personal Beliefs and Medical Practice.
“I strongly encourage Catholic doctors who work in the health service, and all those who have an interest as patients, carers or potential patients to respond to this consultation.
“There should be GMC guidance in relation to religious belief and practice and in relation to conscientious objection. However the draft consultation document does not have a balanced or positive appreciation of the value of religion for patients or for the importance of requiring, and hence permitting, doctors to make conscientious ethical decisions. Both religion and conscientious objection seem to be treated as problems to be minimised and circumscribed as much as possible. However, this attitude is incompatible with respect for the religious beliefs of patients and with a commitment to their best interests. Occasions when doctors may reasonably make known to patients their own religious beliefs clearly require discretion and sensitivity. However, an atmosphere of fear in which doctors are prohibited from ever expressing their own religion, or, at the other extreme are required to advertise in advance that they have certain beliefs, would directly discriminate against certain categories of doctor and indirectly discriminate against patients who may be deprived of a healthcare professional from their community who understands their concerns.
“The vast majority of doctors became so because of their desire to serve and help others, particularly the sick. They see their profession as a vocation; aiming for the highest standards and ideals. The basis for this is often a strong faith and a willingness to serve. Being a doctor requires the highest integrity and dedication and discretion, it is also a way of putting their faith into practice. Respecting the needs and sensitivities of all they meet and work with is also fundamental in their professional life.
“It is important that the voice of Catholic doctors and patients is heard in this consultation, which ends in mid June.”
Deadline for responses: 13 Jun 2012
Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, said:
“We know that personal beliefs are central to the lives of many doctors and patients.
“Our draft guidance seeks to balance doctors desire to practise medicine in line with their own personal beliefs, whilst ensuring that they are providing patients access to appropriate medical treatment and services.
“We do want to hear what doctors and patients think about the draft guidance and we hope as many people as possible will respond to our consultation by 13 June.”