Sunday, June 28, 2009

The poor doctors want to be able to proselytize

Via several of my facebook friend, I read this BBC article

Doctors want right to talk faith

Doctors are demanding that NHS staff be given a right to discuss spiritual issues with patients as well as being allowed to offer to pray for them.

Medics will tell the British Medical Association conference this week that staff should not be disciplined as long as they handle the issue sensitively.

The people in question might call it "talk faith", I call it proselytizing, and I find it entirely wrong for any medical personnel to be involved in that - no matter the faith in question (I would also find it wrong for an atheist to try to deconvert people in hospitals).

There are several reasons for why it's wrong, but the one most people should be able to understand, is the fact that the patients are a captured audience, who can't just get up and leave. They should also feel comfortable with the medical personnel they come into contact with, and if said personnel tried to proselytize in any way or form, it would make a great number of the patients feel uncomfortable.

I really can't see why this should be so hard to understand.

And to make it even worse: as the article makes clear, there are even dedicated personnel to cater to peoples' religious needs.

However, the Department of Health said it was the responsibility of the NHS Chaplaincy Service to meet the spiritual needs of patients.

A spokeswoman said: "We are committed to the principle of ensuring that patients and staff in the NHS have access to the spiritual care that they want, whatever faith or belief system they follow.

"Although all staff should be sensitive to religious needs and preferences of patients, the delivery of spiritual care should be provided by the hospital chaplaincy service."

Still, some of the people interviewed in the article doesn't get it.

But Joyce Robins, co-director of Patient Concern said: "Most complaints from patients are about being on a conveyor belt of care. They don't rate with staff as real people.

"Offering to say a prayer is a warm and kind thought. Most patients will accept it as such. It is no more offensive than being offered a sleeping pill. You can say thanks but that sort of thing isn't my cup of tea.

As an atheist, I would kindly ask the doctor, nurse, or whatever to bugger off and never bother me again. I would also complain to the hospital, and ask them to ensure that said person had nothing to do with me in any way or form again. It's not only because I would find it offensive, which I would, but also because I would find it disturbing and profoundly unprofessional. I would, in other words, loose my trust in said person.

Still, my reaction would be mild compared to the reaction of e.g. a Muslim, Jew, or Hindu person, if a Christian person offered to say a prayer for them (and vice versa). To many of those people, it would be an insult of the greatest degree.

For a person like Joyce Robins to not understand this shows how sheltered from other cultures she has been.

It's really not a question about freedom of religion, but a question of being a professional. As someone employed as a medical personnel you are entitled to your religious beliefs, but you are not entitled to push them on other, while acting in an official capacity. What you do outside your workplace, is your own business (with certain legal limits of course).

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