KENT, England — A Christian doctor in England has been cleared of any wrongdoing after being placed under investigation by the General Medical Council (GMC). The matter centered on the National Secular Society’s (NSS) complaint that an unnamed “highly vulnerable” patient could be exposed to the doctor’s alleged practice of “promoting Christianity” during office visits.
“There is no first-hand account or complaint from any patient about Dr. Scott’s practice,” the GMC wrote in a conclusive letter, as announced by Christian Concern. “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.”
As previously reported by Christian News Network, Richard Scott is a general practitioner (GP) at Bethesda Medical Centre in Margate, Kent, where he occasionally gives spiritual encouragement to patients as part of his holistic approach to the person’s needs.
On June 7, the GMC sent a letter to Scott to advise that it had launched a fitness to practice investigation after receiving “some information” from the Secular Society. The information included notation of a BBC radio interview with Scott on an episode entitled “The Battles That Won Our Freedoms: Freedom of Religion” in which he talked about being investigated for potential regulatory violations years prior.
As previously reported, in 2012, the GMC issued a warning to Scott, a former missionary doctor, after a 24-year-old man filed a complaint against him for talking about Jesus at the end of an appointment. The man had been suicidal and was taking medication.
The GMC’s strike against the doctor was placed in his record until 2017, and his name remained clear for two years — that is, until the NSS complaint.
According to the Christian Legal Centre, the June correspondence stated that the standard-setting organization had again “identified some areas of good medical practice that have been called into question” and needed to “find out more information to see if this is correct and, if so, whether your fitness to practice medicine is potentially impaired.”
However, the Bethesda Medical Centre website specifically notes that it is named after the biblical Pool of Bethesda and that many of its GP’s are Christians.
“Bethesda was a place in the Bible where Christ healed a lame man and means literally ‘house of mercy,’” it states. “The majority of the partners are practicing Christians from a variety of churches, and their faith guides the way in which they view their work and responsibilities to the patients and employees. The partners feel that the offer of talking to you on spiritual matters is of great benefit.”
Conversely, the hospital also instructs patients to advise their doctor that they do not wish to speak about spiritual matters if they are uncomfortable.
“If you do not wish this, that is your right and will not affect your medical care,” it outlines. “Please tell the doctor (or drop a note to the practice manager) if you do not wish to speak on matters of faith.”
In its recent letter issued to Scott at the conclusion of the investigation, the GMC likewise noted the text on the Bethesda website. It also found that “[t]here 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.”
However, the GMC requested that Scott keep a record of any faith-based discussions with patients and noted that professional guidelines must be followed in terms of offering prayer.
Scott, while expressing the hope that his case will protect the rights of other Christian doctors, said that the matter placed an uncalled-for strain upon his life.
“This complaint should never have got to this stage,” he remarked in a statement. “It was clear from the outset that the NSS was targeting not just me and the practice, but also the freedom of Christian professionals across the UK to share their faith in the workplace.”
“The toll placed on my family and me, as a result of one spurious complaint, was totally unnecessary. Yet it is my hope that this outcome will mean other Christian practitioners will not have to go through similar experiences.”
“We have to remember, each one of us, when we come to the Pearly Gates, who opens the door?” he also stated in a video released on Monday by Christian Concern. “It’s not the General Medical Council. It’s not the Nursing and Midwifery Council. It’s not Oftstead, the teachers. It’s not any of these regulatory bodies; they’re behind you in the cue. It’s Jesus Christ.”