Bethseda Medical Centre
The General Medical Council’s Investigation Committee has today reprimanded a Christian doctor for sharing his faith with a patient at the end of a private consultation. The GMC has ruled that his actions ‘did not meet the standards required of a doctor’. Dr Richard Scott has now been issued with a Warning which will remain on his record for five years.
The National Secular Society encouraged the proceedings and handed transcripts of evidence to the Committee, detailing Dr Scott’s appearances on radio and television where he had defended himself.
Dr Scott, who has been a doctor for over 28 years in Margate, Kent, was initially investigated by the GMC after it received a complaint from a patient that Dr Scott had discussed the benefits of Christianity with him.
The GMC proceeded with the case despite the fact that the patient made it clear that he did not want to pursue the complaint, and repeatedly refused to give evidence in person.
Dr Scott, represented by Human Rights Barrister Paul Diamond, and supported by the Christian Legal Centre, argued that the case should be ‘Struck Out’, as a proper and fair hearing could not take place if Mr Diamond was not able to cross-examine the patient in person. However, the GMC ruled that the patient’s evidence could be given over the telephone and in secret - an extraordinary procedure - meaning that Dr Scott’s defence team were denied an adequate opportunity to assess the patient’s responses.
In his evidence, the patient was unclear about how long his consultation with Dr Scott had lasted, yet he maintained that he was offered no medical options, but was told that belief in Jesus Christ was the only way that his suffering would be relieved. However, Dr Scott testified that he had provided medical options, but raised his faith because he believed it could help the patient. Dr Scott claims that when he asked whether he could discuss faith, his patient said ‘Go for it’. The discussion only took place for five minutes at the end of a twenty minute consultation.
Dr Scott said: “I, and every GP, should be outraged at this decision by our professional body. My professional reputation has been compromised and I have been disciplined, just for sharing my Christian views - even though it is recognised by many peer-reviewed articles that faith helps ill people.
“My barrister was not given the opportunity to cross-examine the complainant face to face and for the case to be tried in this way is plainly wrong. The GMC has taken two years to drag this case out knowing that the complainant would never show up. I will be seeking further legal advice as to a Judicial review of the GMC’s handling of its disciplinary procedures, as the amateur and unjust way this trial is being conducted is an insult to me and to every member of the medical profession.”
Andrea Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “I am appalled by this decision. Many doctors will be deeply concerned with the way this case has been handled by the GMC. Why did they pursue a complaint when the complainant did not want to pursue it in person? Why was the evidence heard in secret?”
“Our society seems to becoming more and more repressive, with ordinary, decent people being reported to the authorities and disciplined, not for committing any crime, but just for expressing their Christian beliefs.”
Dr Scott is based at the Bethesda Medical Centre, a long-established practice which offers 12 consulting rooms, six treatment rooms and a number of support personnel/services such as health visitors, district nurses, counsellors, ophthalmologists, physiotherapist, diabetic podiatrist, minor operations and midwifery. The Practice is also a recognised training centre for medical students and GPs on vocational development.
The Centre's website says: "The six partners are all practising Christians from a variety of churches and their faith guides the way in which they view their work and responsibilities to the patients and employees. The Partners feel that the offer of talking to you on spiritual matters is of great benefit. If you do not wish this, that is your right and will not affect your medical care. Please tell the doctor (or drop a note to the Practice Manager) if you do not wish to speak on matters of faith."
Source: CLC/Bethseda Media Centre/GMC