Thursday, 8 February 2007

Confused Zealots

GP (doctors) are supposed to be eductated and intelligent people. They spend about seven years at univeristy learning complicated things by heard, having drugs, lots of of sex and drinking too much (that's the reputation of French medecine students anyway). They have huge responsibilities over people's lives and should they not be percieved to be made of a better cloth, people would perhaps hesitate to trust them.

So I am wondering which part of the word "No", Dr John Lockley from Bedfordshire is finding difficult to understand. Dr Lockey has asked Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt to provide an avoidance clause for GPs similar to that in abortion legislation. Section 4 of the 1967 Abortion Act give doctors the right to refuse to be involved in an abortion if in doing so they would be forced to act against their own conscience or ethics. He said he had a "very good relationship" with gay patients on his list but if asked to provide detailed information about their suitability to bring up a child in a same-sex partnership, "on Christian conscience grounds" he would find it difficult.

Only two weeks ago, the Catholic Church was asking for something similar and was clearly told by the government that this would be possible. I have made the point earlier that faith based adoption agencies who provide public services (and receive tax payers' money) should act like any other public service organisation and therefore can in no way discriminate. This is, in my view, even more the case with GPs. Because of their high level of qualification, their patients are forced to entrust themselves to their hands almost blindly. They have to be able to trust that they will be treated fairly, whoever they are, whatever their circumstances. A opt-out on religious grounds, when religion has nothing to do with medecine (unless you are a shaman, perhaps) would go against all this principals and should therefore not be allowed.

In the meantime the Scotish head of the Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, said that equal rights were a sign of a "deeply hedonistic society" (do read the readers' comments on this article too), where ancient morals were being replaced by "issues of life-style and choice". No explanation is provided however on how equal rights are a sign of hedonism.

As with Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor's original claim that Catholic adoption agencies would have to close, this outburst comes with threats and blackmail: That the two Scotish Catholic agencies would have to close too but also that the 800,000 members of the Scotish Catholic church and more importantly the thousands of Polish immigrants now working in Scotland will vote against Labour in support of Scotish National Party and Scotish independence, which O'Brien and senior Church figures have recently started to support publicly.

Around 40,000 immigrants are now working in Scotland, 90% of them Poles, who are in turn almost all practising Catholics. The Roman Catholic Church is urging Poles to vote "with their conscience," a thinly veiled reference to their objection to a range of measures introduced by the ruling Labour executive in Edinburgh, from gay adoption to civil partnerships. There are reports that the Church is even considering producing its own election literature in Polish.

Again, this has little to do with gay adoption but about power. O'Brien's hopes are clearly to stir his flock into flexing their political muscles at the coming parliamentary election, thus proving in the process the degree of influence the Catholic Church has in the country.

1 comment:

  1. As a Doctor myself I find this very difficult to understand. We have a professional duty to act as advocates for our patients. I am not sure if stance would stand up in front of the GMC. Especially since the maximum he would be asked to provide would be perhaps a character reference or a health report. Bryn


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