UK Christian doctor who prays with patients faces fresh investigation
January 8, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — A doctor in England, who says he is “prepared to take risks on behalf of Jesus,” is facing fresh scrutiny for sharing his Christian faith with patients after the U.K.’s independent regulator for doctors said it will review its decision to close a case that was brought against him by the National Secular Society.
The Christian Legal Centre, which gave legal support to Dr. Richard Scott during last year’s investigation, have told media in the U.K. that they are “confident” that Dr. Scott “has done nothing wrong”.
In June 2019, the U.K.’s General Medical Council (GMC) began an investigation into Dr. Scott’s fitness to practice after a complaint from the National Secular Society (NSS). In December last year they closed the investigation, but that decision has now been challenged by the NSS.
The GMC does not comment publicly on investigations unless they progress to tribunals, but according to the Christian Legal Centre, the GMC advised Dr. Scott by letter that there was “no first-hand account or complaint from any patient about [his] practice”.
When advising that they were closing their case against Dr. Scott, the GMC reportedly wrote that “[t]here is no first-hand account of complaint from any patient about Dr. Scott’s practice. The NSS sent an anonymous hearsay account about how Dr. Scott expressed his religious beliefs to a ‘highly vulnerable’ patient,” and “there is no convincing evidence that Dr. Scott imposes his personal religious beliefs upon potentially vulnerable patients.”
They also added, “There is no evidence that [Dr. Scott] discusses faith in situations where the patient has stated that they do not wish to discuss these matters or that he has continued to discuss faith after a patient has indicated that they do not welcome such a discussion.”
The GMC clarified that Dr Scott’s medical practice “states that the majority of the Partners are Christians and that this faith guides the way in which they view their work.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said when the investigation was dropped in December that the rejection of the complaint had given reassurance to Christian doctors and professionals that “they can share their faith in the workplace” and that it gave “clear guidance on how they can share it without fear of losing their jobs.”
But the NSS have now challenged that decision, citing minutes from January 2019 made at a meeting of a patients’ group at the Bethesda Medical Centre (where Dr. Scott is based), where staff say that “many complaints are received from patients saying that they do not wish Christianity or any other religion to be pushed upon them when they attend the surgery”. No patient who allegedly made such complaints is named in the minutes, nor is any direct reference made to Dr. Scott.
In December, Dr. Scott told the Mail on Sunday that he had discussed faith with one in forty patients, but he had always asked for permission first.
Section 30 of the GMC’s guidance on personal beliefs and medical practice states: “You may talk about your own personal beliefs only if a patient asks you directly about them, or indicates they would welcome such a discussion”.
He said that in over two decades, “only about ten” had complained, with just one going to the GMC, in 2012. The NSS have cited Dr. Scott’s admission that ten patients in over two decades had complained as a reason for their new challenge.
Tim Dieppe, head of public policy at the evangelical think-tank Christian Concern, told U.K. newspaper The Guardian that “Dr. Scott has been put through a lot of stress and anxiety from all these various complaints in what seems like a targeted campaign from the National Secular Society”. Dieppe said that the investigation last year was based on a “clearly a spurious complaint” and that “it would be a real shame if they have decided to review it”.
Stephen Evans, chief executive of the National Secular Society, has said that “[t]he General Medical Council’s decision to review Dr Richard Scott’s case is welcome”. Evans said that “Dr Scott’s recent comments appear to make clear that he holds the GMC in contempt and considers himself above the rules it puts in place to protect patients. Being an evangelical Christian should not exempt him from the standards expected of all doctors working in the UK.”
When the complaint was first made in June last year, Dr. Scott told Christian Concern that two patients had recently accepted his help. One, reportedly, had such bad body dysmorphia that the patient was self-harming, and the patient’s marriage was at risk. Dr. Scott said counselling had made no difference but that the patient had been comforted when he said, “God made you as you are, he loves you how you are.”
Speaking to BBC Radio Kent last year, Dr. Scott said that “you have to consider as a Christian doctor who is your ultimate boss. And it’s not the General Medical Council, it’s Jesus Christ.” Dr. Scott added that he was “prepared to take risks on behalf of Jesus” because he had seen “how much patients can benefit”.
“I’ve seen hundreds of patients benefit over the years,” Dr. Scott said, “and if one or two don’t like what I do, then that’s a risk I’m prepared to take”.