Faith: just another placebo in the “treatment” arsenal

New York Daily News is reporting on a British doctor who supposedly told a patient that prayers to Jesus would fix things.

A British doctor is in danger of losing his job because he prescribed Jesus to a patient.

Dr. Richard Scott reportedly told the 24-year-old man that praying to Christ would get him out of his “rut.”

“He just said I need Jesus,” the patient later told his mother.

Outraged, the patient’s mom accused the doctor of pushing religion on her vulnerable son and filed a formal complaint with the General Medical Council, which regulates British doctors.

Once a missionary, Scott claims the discussion occurred at the end of their session with the patient’s complete permission.

“In our conversation, I said that, personally, I had found having faith in Jesus helped me and could help the patient. At no time did the patient indicate that they were offended, or that they wanted to stop the discussion.”

Had that happened, Scott added, “I would have immediately ended the conversation.

There are people in the world who still trust the man in the white coat and won’t interrupt him. I would have found such a conversation uncomfortable, too, but knowing me, I’d take a polite route and nod and smile but leave the place fuming. I don’t think I’d report the behaviour, except to my fellow freethinker friends at a pub later. I wouldn’t have told a doctor to stop talking Jesus at me. It would be rude.

Mind you, it’s rude of the doctor to just up and suggest prayer, just because he found it helpful in his own situations. Does the fact that his practice in Kent “makes no secret of its Christian leanings” mean he should be allowed to play minister? The GMC says no, “unless those beliefs are directly relevant to the patient’s care.” Whatever that might mean. Making allowances for Jehovah’s Witnesses and other groups that get weird(er) when they mix health and religion, maybe?

The Way (“Christianity without walls” but with bias) reports on the story, too:

The GMC has written to Dr Scott offering a ‘compromise’ decision to the disciplinary complaint of placing an Official Warning on his file. However, the GP is calling on his professional body to strike-out the complaint on the basis that the complaint was from a mother who was not medically qualified to comment on what treatment, if any, a medical practitioner should prescribe and, the GMC’s own guidelines state that it is acceptable to present faith to a patient as long as it is done gently and sensitively.

But faith masquerading as a medical treatment for what ails someone? We’re not told what “rut” this boy was in for why Mom sent him to the doctor but still. Scott’s prescribing prayer, for pity’s sake. How can any doctor worth his salt get away with that? Since when does faith trump the field of medicine? If it actually could, he never would have had to study to become a doctor in the first place. Unless faith healers don’t make as much money as he does…

Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “It is a shame that Dr Scott has been reported to the GMC because of his Christian views. Dr Scott is an experienced GP who has helped thousands of patients over the years. “The complaint, on religious grounds, appears to be a smokescreen to express frustration and to disagree publicly with the professional treatment offered. However, the GMC must not bow to political or emotional pressure in this case and should back the GP 100 per-cent, as he acted within their own guidelines, and his unblemished record should not be tarnished – even by a letter on his file.”

Prayer isn’t treatment. Faith isn’t treatment. It’s just something that fills the time waiting for treatment to work, and may provide comfort if the treatment doesn’t work. It’s not treatment for anything.

BBC quotes a politician regarding this case:

Laura Sandys, Conservative MP for South Thanet, said: “We totally appreciate that medical standards need regulating, but monitoring and then sanctioning doctors on conversations with patients, that do not relate to their medical condition, must be a matter between the individuals and dealt with locally.

“The GMC has over-reacted and needs to put an end to misplaced activism that is putting a respected doctor’s profession on the line.”

So if Scott thinks faith is the answer to fixing someone’s medical condition he should get a pass? Ridiculous.

The Daily Mail quotes someone else on on Scott’s side:

Simon Calvert of The Christian Institute said: ‘Are we really getting to a position where Christians are not allowed to speak about their faith at all in the workplace?

‘Dr Scott had a rigorous policy of not pressing the point if people didn’t want to hear his views and it sounds like he was very respectful.

‘I think the GMC should be glad to have people like that rather than disciplining and putting them under pressure to keep their faith quiet.’

How many people has he worked on that were Christian already and thus welcoming of any opportunity to talk god-shop? It’s not a conversation topic that gets under Christian skin, after all. There’d be no reason for Christians to tell him to stuff it. But, like I mentioned above, others who might be annoyed by that tactic might not feel very comfortable standing up to their doctor for any reason, let alone this one.

As to faith in the work place, I think the only people who should be talking faith while they work are ministers. Beyond telling someone what you did on Sunday, what purpose does faith-chat serve except to show off how properly pious you are? None whatsoever.

I don’t think Scott should lose his job over this, necessarily. He just needs a reminder that spiritual guidance shouldn’t get the same priority as solid, useful medical advice. Certainly not when it’s a doctor talking. If he wants to minister he should go back to being a missionary. If he wants to treat medical conditions, he should shut up about the state of the soul.

That’s how I see it, at least. How about you?

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