Doctor given official warning over faith comments

A Christian doctor has been given an official warning by the General Medical Council after he talked about his faith with a patient.

The GMC ruled on Thursday that Dr Richard Scott’s actions “did not meet the standards required of a doctor”.

The case relates to a complaint that was made against Dr Scott by one of his patients in 2010 after he talked about the benefits of Christianity towards the end of a private consultation.

The consultation was held at the Bethesda Medical Centre, in Margate, Kent, which has a Christian ethos and is run by six partners who are practising Christians and state on the centre’s website that spiritual matters may be discussed with patients.

In a report on the GMC’s findings, Dr Scott was quoted as telling the 24-year-old man, known as Patient A, that if he did not “turn towards Jesus then he would suffer for the rest of his life”.

The patient, who was reportedly suicidal and psychologically disturbed, was also told that “the Devil haunts people who do not turn to Jesus”.

Chairman of the committee, Dr Christopher Hanning, said: "The committee consider that you went beyond the limit of such spiritual guidance as would have been appropriate.

"Your actions caused some distress to Patient A, which was foreseeable.

"He said that he felt abused. This is plainly inappropriate and not in his best interests.

"In this way you sought to impose your own beliefs on your patient."

Dr Scott criticised the proceedings as “unjust” because the patient was allowed to give evidence in private, meaning that he could not be cross-examined in person by Dr Scott’s barrister.

The GMC report also details how Dr Scott told the patient that he was not going to offer him any medical help or advice.

Dr Scott testified that he did provide medical options but was given permission by the patient during the consultation to talk about faith as he thought it might be of benefit.

Dr Scott said: “I’m deeply upset at this decision by my professional body.

“My professional reputation has been compromised and I have been disciplined, just for sharing my Christian views - yet it is recognised by many peer-reviewed articles that faith can help unwell 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.”

Dr Scott said he would be seeking further legal advice about a judicial review into the GMC’s handling of the case.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which defended Dr Scott during the proceedings, said she was appalled by the 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?” she said.

“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.”