Doctors who refuse to provide ‘sex change’ operations could be struck off, under new General Medical Council (GMC) draft guidance.
Doctors could also breach the guidance if they are unwilling to prescribe contraception to an unmarried person but willing to prescribe it to a married person.
The guidance, ‘Personal beliefs and medical practice’, was issued by the GMC last Thursday and is subject to consultation.
Section 5 of the guidance states that a doctor may choose to opt out of providing a particular procedure because of personal beliefs and values, but an exception has been made in the area of sex change procedures.
Dr Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship, described the guidance as “a clever piece of double-speak”.
He said: “On the one hand it says that ‘doctors should be free to practise medicine in accordance with their beliefs’, but if this involves ‘denying patients access to appropriate medical treatment or services’ then they must ‘be prepared to set aside their personal beliefs'”.
Dr Saunders added: “The problem is that 21st century British medicine now involves practices which many doctors regard as unethical. This latest guidance by the GMC will therefore be seen by many as a further attack on the right to practise independently in accordance with one’s conscience which lies at the heart of being a true health professional.”
Earlier this year two Roman Catholic midwives took the NHS to court, claiming their conscientious objections to abortions had been ignored.
Mary Doogan, 57, and Concepta Wood, 51, who work at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital, argued that being forced to supervise staff taking part in the procedures violated their human rights.
But NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board said it recognised their right not to participate in abortions but believed it was lawful for the women to supervise and support staff nursing women undergoing abortions.
The two midwives lost their legal battle but are set to appeal against the decision.