GPs are free to pray with their patients as long as they are receptive to the offer, the UK’s leading medical defence group has said.
The Medical Defence Union’s new guidance quotes a senior figure at the General Medical Council (GMC) saying that a “tactful” offer to pray could be appropriate.
The news follows a number of cases where Christian medics have faced disciplinary proceedings for mentioning their faith at work.
The GP magazine Pulse reports that the GMC is standing by the comments from Jane O’Brien, Assistant Director at the GMC.
In a letter, which was originally published in The Daily Telegraph in 2009, she said: “Nothing in the GMC’s guidance Personal Beliefs and Medical Practice precludes doctors from praying with their patients.
“It says that the focus must be on a patient’s needs and wishes. Any offer to pray should follow on from a discussion which establishes that the patient might be receptive.”
And earlier this month Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: “Conversations about faith should not be a starting point.
“Doctors can however sensitively explore whether a patient may wish to discuss their own faith when it is appropriate to their care and then provide spiritual support if this is what the patient wants.”
In December 2008 Caroline Petrie, a Christian nurse in Somerset, was suspended by her NHS employers under ‘equality and diversity’ rules after she offered to pray for a patient. Mrs Petrie was reinstated the following February.
Earlier this year it emerged that a Christian GP who discussed his faith with a patient is facing disciplinary action and could even lose his job.
Dr Richard Scott, one of six Christian partners at Bethesda medical centre in Kent, insists that he only discussed how his faith in Jesus had helped him as part of a “consensual discussion between two adults” towards the end of a thorough consultation.
But the General Medical Council claims that by talking about Christianity Dr Scott distressed one of his patients, and risked bringing the medical profession into disrepute.
Dr Scott refused the official warning from the GMC, and now “fully expects” to face a public hearing.