Christian GP fighting for his job had prayed to God for a challenge
Dr Richard Scott was frustrated with his lot. Despite having a flourishing GP practice and happy family life, he felt that he was not making a difference. So he turned to someone who had always helped him in the past.
“I asked God to send me a challenge that would resonate with people,” he says, “to make them see the importance of faith.”
God listened. Within the year, Dr Scott was locked in a battle with the General Medical Council after he suggested to a suicidal patient in August 2010 that religion might do more to help him than medication.
He also found himself fighting for his own life, after being diagnosed with bowel cancer.
Though Dr Scott has undergone painful surgery, radiation and two rounds of chemotherapy, the cancer, he says, has been the least of it.
What upsets him most is the realisation that it has become dangerous today to express Christian beliefs in the workplace.
The GMC, which regulates standards among medical professionals, issued Dr Scott with a warning last March. He had, it claimed, “overstepped the line” when, in a consultation, he urged his 24-year-old patient to give Christianity a chance.
“The man was depressed, and had left his own faith. So I told him, ‘You may find that Christianity offers you something that your own faith did not.’ His mother complained that I was forcing my religion down his throat.”
In finding that Dr Scott pushed his religious views on his patient, the GMC warned that if any further complaints are made about him, the GP of 28 years’ standing risks being struck off the medical register.
His appeal against the official warning was quashed last Thursday, after a four-day hearing that his counsel, Paul Diamond, called “Stalinist”.
From his home in Margate, Kent, Dr Scott said: “It was as if I had stepped into a secret court, with the witness, Patient A, never appearing. He was allowed to give evidence over the telephone, and remained a faceless accuser.”
This proved, he says, “the GMC’s bias against me — and any doctor who wears his Christian faith on his sleeve”.
The same council that allows doctors to promote the healing effects of homoeopathy, chiropractic and reiki, also known as palm healing — which are all unsupported by Western, evidence-based medicine but are backed by belief systems — has banned the mere mention of faith and prayer in a consultation.
Yet, as Dr Scott points out, the medical impact of prayer has been proved in a number of scientific studies.
“Christians recover 70 per cent faster,” he says. “They’re also less likely to get depressed. In America, medical schools have even introduced spirituality and health courses because they recognise the significant role of faith as part of therapy.”
So, too, do the GPs at the Bethesda Medical Centre in Margate. Posters and leaflets at the surgery — which is described in its literature as “expressly Christian” but accepting of patients of all faiths — advises that “if you don’t want to talk about faith, let doctors know”.
The doctors, who include Dr Scott’s wife Heather, do outreach work connected with alcoholics, drug addicts and suicides, and rely on prayers and Bible readings in their mission. The practice, the GP points out, takes its name from the healing pool mentioned in the Gospel of John.
Dr Scott, 51, worries that his case is the latest in an alarming trend that points to the marginalisation of Christianity. Whether it is about abortion or gay marriage, the Christian perspective is under fire from the authorities.
“Look at the GMC,” he says. “It is made up of the great and the good. It is a pillar of the establishment. Yet can they claim to speak for the majority of people in this country? No. More than 70 per cent of Britons, when asked if they believe in God, said yes.”
The former missionary doctor and father-of-three believes that Christians must keep their faith “in the closet” or risk punishment.
“I got off lightly,” he admits, “as I still have a job. Other Christians suffered far more. The electrician who dared display a palm frond in the window of his van was fired; and the nurse who prayed for a patient was suspended.”
Dr Scott believes that efforts to eradicate Christianity’s presence in public life are growing. Before the tribunal hearing, he was vilified in the media as a Bible-thumping zealot; that alone, he says, will intimidate other doctors who dare to infuse their medical work with Christian charity.
By upholding this ruling, he believes the GMC has set a precedent, making it a disciplinary offence to bring faith to work.
Will the midwife who opposes abortion or the doctor who opposes assisted suicide be forced to go against their conscience and participate in procedures they believe to be wrong?
“I fear,” says Dr Scott, “that more and more, the answer will be ‘yes’.”
What is it about the Christian mindset that causes such hostility in today’s liberal society? One reason, I venture, is that our culture prizes individualism, and we have grown accustomed to being able to sleep with whom we want, give birth when we want, and even snuff out life (our own, or an unborn child’s) as we see fit.
Dr Scott agrees that Christianity challenges this self-regard by accepting taboos and cherishing principles that the contemporary “anything-goes” culture has rejected. However, as he point out, such moral absolutism when professed by Muslims is somehow acceptable, but in Christians smacks of imperialism.
Dr Scott fears, too, that religious charities and organisations that run hospitals, schools and hostels for the homeless are being squeezed out of the public arena.
Just as Roman Catholic adoption agencies have been shut down because they refused to place children in their care with homosexual couples, so Christian hospices will be forced to shut if they oppose euthanasia, and Christian hospitals to close if they refuse to perform abortions.
It is a bleak scenario — and totally different from the welcome that Dr Scott received in India and Africa during his years as a medical missionary. While he and his wife worked in Tanzania and Kenya, they found themselves loved and respected because of, rather than in spite of, their faith.
“As Christians, we were seen to bring education and medicines, but also an important ally against the witchdoctors who were causing extraordinary violence and misery among the Masai.
“Even when we were unable to save a life, or a limb, the family would offer us a slaughtered cow in gratitude.”
No slaughtered cows here — though his struggle has brought Dr Scott hundreds of letters and emails of support. He takes comfort in these, especially in messages from atheists.
The British sense of fair play is offended by censorship, especially when its victims are targeted for their beliefs. When a woman cannot wear a cross, or her colleague a hijab, it is not only believers who cry foul.
Are Britons cross enough about this to fight back? “Yes,” Dr Scott is adamant. “I think people are fed up of watching their countrymen being bullied by the thought police.”
The GMC and other authorities, he says, ignore that Britons like to live in a civilised country — one in which everyone is free to have their say — at their peril. Culled from telegraph
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