Christian-run NHS surgery criticised for refusing to prescribe morning-after pill

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A Christian-run NHS GP surgery has attracted criticism for posting a notice warning that some of its doctors refuse to prescribe the morning-after pill to patients on grounds of conscience.


The message on the door of The Links Medical Practice in Mottingham, south London advises patients that if “a consenting doctor is not available” to prescribe contraception they should contact a local clinic or chemist.

One of the practice’s patients was so outraged by what she perceived as the influence of religion on healthcare that she has decided to leave. The patient, who asked to remain anonymous, toldThe Independent: “I know the law allows doctors to do this but I don’t think it should”.

Audrey Simpson, chief executive of the Family Planning Association, said other women should also think about leaving the surgery in response to the notice.

Written By: Sanchez Manning
continue to source article at independent.co.uk

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  1. Christian run NHS??? WTF??? Hold on I pay for that, as do all the Muslims and Sikhs and Hindus who choose to work in Britain. I resent the idea that my taxes can be spend on an institution that can make its our rules on health based on some shitty old book. Imagine the Muslim version, of this. Oh your unmarried and youve had sex with an infidel, i’ll prescribe some stoning for you, next patient.

    What next David Cameron, Bhuddist run slaughterhouses that decide not to supply the country with meat?

  2. Surely a Christain would be the last person i’d want to see caring for me at hospital. They believe in an afterlife so why would they make an effort to keep me alive.

    Makes you wonder why they all wear seatbelts and take medicine really seeing at greatness is just a quick death away

  3. In that case the doctor should quietly hand the case over to someone else, same as if the doctor were too squeamish to draw blood. The doctor has no right to lecture patients on his private morality, which is really his motivation.

    I have always turned down any work or sale that had anything whatsoever to do with the military. I think have every right to do that as a private individual. The problem comes if I worked for the government. Then I am turning down people who have already paid for my services. If I were working at a supermarket filling bags, I would be quite out of line to refuse to serve anyone wearing a military uniform, no matter how strong my conscientious objection to serving war criminals.

    • Strictly speaking, GP’s are all independent contractors and not NHS employees. That said, if they are contracted to provide NHS services they should not be allowed to pick and choose which ones. And now that the government has seen fit to transfer most NHS commissioning funding to GPs (effectively privatising it since GPs are not part of the NHS, a fact the media largely let slip by uncommented) it begs the question of how religious GPs might use this new power. Restricting commissioning of abortion services perhaps?

      In reply to #5 by AsylumWarden:

      It’s perfectly simple. If you have a problem offering some of the services on the NHS, don’t work for the NHS!

      • If this is the case, then the onus is on the contracting civil service department to sever the relevant contracts at the earliest opportunity and to address the policy of allowing any interest group to run any government funded or supported practice.

        In the battle for the hearts and minds of the general populace, it is easy to blame the charlatans who are the educated beneficiaries in any religeon from exploiting their position in order to sign more people up to their version of hegemony. It is incumbent on the executive arm of the people’s representatives to ensure that no interest groups are able to exploit the vulnerable in society, especially through the tools which are suppsed to be providing a safety net for those who are marginalised and most at risk.

        In reply to #14 by paulmcuk:

        Strictly speaking, GP’s are all independent contractors and not NHS employees. That said, if they are contracted to provide NHS services they should not be allowed to pick and choose which ones. And now that the government has seen fit to transfer most NHS commissioning funding to GPs (effectively p…

  4. A number of thoughts on things one (mainly as a tax payer):
    1. If contraception is a matter of choice (esp in the case of the morning after pill) then why can’t a doctor have the choice of whether they want to prescribe or not? (note the surgery did have Drs who would, but not always on duty – see point 3)

    1. If this can be obtained at the Chemist, why should I be paying a Dr (through my taxes) for someone’s choice?

    2. I have noticed a change in the way Dr Surgeries work. Before I used to make an appointment and go in with a list of things, now the receptionist asks you what is wrong so they can send you to the right person. Last week I went because of a viral infection and was given an appointment with a nurse. I said “while I am here, I wanted to ask about Holiday Vaccinations”, she said “I am not the one who can tell you about that, you need to make an appointment with another nurse” (who won’t be available for another week). The trend seems to be about having certain practicionnars who deal with certain things. Therefor, it seems (rightly or wrongly) that there will be Drs who will do some things and not others. So the response of the surgery might also be a reflection of working practices.

  5. The “Practice Philosophy” page of the Links Medical Practice website makes clear that the practice is run by evangelical Christians.

    “Thus we may discuss various relevant issues with you, such as diet, smoking, drugs, immunisation, contraception or abortion. You may find that different healthcare workers have different opinions and advice, and this may be because there is more than one “right” answer. We will seek to practice healthcare based on sound advice and to seek real answers to the ills you experience. Sometimes this will mean identifying the spiritual issues which affect you.”

    These people are on incredibly thin ice. Last year a Margate GP, Dr Richard Scott, was formally warned by a disciplinary tribunal (but not struck off, sadly) for telling a suicidal psychologically disturbed patient that if he did not “turn towards Jesus then he would suffer for the rest of his life”. This was also an unashamedly evangelical Christian practice.

    If these people want to preach, let the run a private practice and preach to patients willing to pay them fees to listen to them. None of this is a suitable destination for taxpayers’ money.

  6. I agree with a person in a country where National Service is compulsory to practice conscientious objection if he has been ordered to join the Army, but I don’t understand a doctor who willingly applied for a job in the NHS, wants to object to a medical treatment because it goes against his creed. Why did he apply for the job, then? Is it acceptable if I apply for a job in a machinegun factory to refuse to work because I’m a pacifist and at the same time pretend to get my salary? Of course not. Then why doctors accept the job and then say they can’t apply certain medical therapies because of their religion? The law allows this people to do this, but it shouldn’t. Now imagine if other religious communities start practicing conscientious objection according to their creeds; just imagine you urgently need a blood transfusion after an accident and the doctor on duty at the hospital is a Jehovah’s Witness and refuses to do it because of his creed; your life would be in serious danger. Unfortunately this problem is happening in other European countries and something must be done about it.

    • In reply to #12 by Odalrich:

      …just imagine you urgently need a blood transfusion after an accident and the doctor on duty at the hospital is a Jehovah’s Witness and refuses to do it because of his creed; your life would be in serious danger. Unfortunately this problem is happening in other European countries and something must be done about it.

      Odalrich, could you point me to an instance of this? I fully understand Witnesses not accepting blood but for a JW doctor to refuse to prescribe blood (appropriately) could indeed be tragic and indefensible publicly (at least in the UK where I am).

      • In reply to #22 by Docjitters:

        In reply to #12 by Odalrich:

        …just imagine you urgently need a blood transfusion after an accident and the doctor on duty at the hospital is a Jehovah’s Witness and refuses to do it because of his creed; your life would be in serious danger. Unfortunately this problem is happening in other Europe…

        If today Christian doctors have the right to the conscientious objection clause for not prescribing contraceptives, who assures me that in the future a Jehovah’s Witness doctor will not claim the same right? When I lived in the UK in the 1960s, I never heard of a doctor refusing to prescribe contraceptives or Muslims claiming segregated places at universities. This would have been indifensible in the past, but now it is accepted. In the times we live in you can expect any future irrational demand on the part of religious communities. After all if you allow a doctor not to take any medical decision that contravenes his religion, a Jehova Witness can claim the same right.

  7. It might be a problem for a young girl to leave such a prescriptive clinic, because her parents may jump to the conclusion that she is only leaving a “Christian” centre for one reason and one reason only, that she is a slut at variance with god’s laws and a disgrace and a dishonour to her family. It would confirm her as a worthless slut (see the later article by Elizabeth Smart about Sex Education)

  8. For the love of sanity, how many times does this have to be said? If you are a healthcare provider, your first duty is to your patients, not your personal beliefs. If you can’t serve all of your patients’ needs without the interference of personal belief or religious bias, GET ANOTHER JOB. You aren’t fit to be a nurse, physician, or pharmacist.

  9. Whatever happened to a balanced response? Some of the comments here are idiotic. Doctors have the right to a conscience and it is perfectly reasonable for some GPs to choose not to terminate a pregnancy. Saying that they should get out of the NHS if they aren’t prepared to do so is nonsense. The doctor’s mantra is ‘first do no harm’. The issue is not the doctor’s right to choose, but the requirement for the surgery to provide an alternative GP who is willing to prescribe the morning after pill, etc.
    This has nothing to do with religion. It is quite possible for a doctor with no religion to come to the rational conclusion that their conscience will not allow them to take a life.
    The decisions that doctors have to make are not always as clear cut as some people seem to think. There should always be room for a doctor with a conscience, whatever their religious or non-religious beliefs.

    • In reply to #17 by jstrakerj:

      Whatever happened to a balanced response?

      Ah! The fudgist “balanced response”, between scientific evidence and fumble-brained thinking!

      Some of the comments here are idiotic. Doctors have the right to a conscience and it is perfectly reasonable for some GPs to choose not to terminate a pregnancy.

      I find this one particularly idiotic as a woman is not yet pregnant the morning after sex! That takes a few days! A morning after pill does not “terminate a pregnancy”! It prevents a conception!

      The ovum, now known as a zygote, begins to change immediately after fertilization. The membrane surrounding it becomes impenetrable to other sperm. Soon the zygote is dividing into a cluster of two, then four, then more cells, as it makes its way down the fallopian tube toward the uterus. At first it looks like a bunch of grapes. By the time it reaches the uterus, in 3 to 5 days, the cells are formed in the shape of a minute ball, http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/sexual+reproduction

      .. .

      Saying that they should get out of the NHS if they aren’t prepared to do so is nonsense. The doctor’s mantra is ‘first do no harm’.

      So you don’t see whimsically refusing urgent treatment as a problem, because a doctor chooses to listen to ignorant preachers instead of medical codes and researched information?

      The issue is not the doctor’s right to choose, but the requirement for the surgery to provide an alternative GP who is willing to prescribe the morning after pill, etc.

      Ah! A bit like a bus depot employing drivers who won’t drive buses, or a vegan slaughter-house worker who will not kill animals!

      This has nothing to do with religion.

      Really? Religious bigotry over denial medical treatments, is almost invariably the cause! Why would anyone else choose decisions based on ignorance!

      It is quite possible for a doctor with no religion to come to the rational conclusion that their conscience will not allow them to take a life.

      Hardly! They are not “taking a life”, any more than you are when you kill a few skin cells brushing your teeth!
      To think that prescribing a morning-after pill was taking some form of sentient life, the doctor would have to be biologically and medically illiterate!

      The decisions that doctors have to make are not always as clear cut as some people seem to think. That is why there are medical codes of conduct, contractual responsibilities, and disciplinary procedures.

      There should always be room for a doctor with a conscience, whatever their religious or non-religious beliefs.

      There is! They can leave the profession if they don’t want to do the job!

      Anyone who cannot behave according to professional ethics should be disciplined. Dressing up bigotry and ignorance as conscience is no excuse. People need to be able to trust their doctors to deliver a proper service. Especially when treatment is time critical.

      Comments like, “You can’t be given a blood transfusion because your doctor does not believe in them”, or no “contraception because your doctor does not like it”, is simply unacceptable in a public service.

      To quote an old saying:- “If you don’t like the heat, get out of the kitchen!”

      If they want to preach ignorance they should become preachers, not doctors!

      • In reply to #21 by Alan4discussion:

        If they want to preach ignorance they should become preachers, not doctors!

        Unfortunately, sometimes they manage to combine the two: Stevehill (Comment 8) has already mentioned the infamous Bethesda Medical Center in Margate, Kent. My other half went there (once!) to get her contraceptive pill renewed and was advised that she should be (in her early 20s) getting married and having children instead. And no, she didn’t get the Pills…

        EDIT: Bethesda MC’s website mentions a “full range of family planning services including oral contraception, fitting and checking caps and coils, contraception injection and implant and emergency contraception” so they may have cleaned up their act, at least as far as contraception goes. I don’t know if this predates Dr. Scott’s formal warning.

  10. Anyone who refuses to do a required part of their job for the NHS needs to be disciplined, including dismissal if necessary. NHS policy decisions are an expression of the democratic will of the people, decided by professional employees but authorised by us through our elected representatives. A refusal to carry out a task because of personal preference is no more acceptable from a doctor than it would be from an infantry soldier or a burger flipper.

    What I find particularly shameful is that in refusing to administer the morning after pill, the doctor is not preserving a life – just making the issue somebody else’s problem. That’s not solving the problem or saving a life.

    On another note – is the egg even fertilised the morning after ? As far as i understood, it takes longer than that for the sperm to swim up the fallopian tubes, so there is no life the morning after, just an egg and sperm on the way. Am I wrong ?

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