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Letter of the week: Keep God out of medicine

I must take issue with Dr Richard Scott.

Offering the gospel is good medicine

I think the consultation is not the place for anyone to discuss their superstitious beliefs, especially with patients who can be, as he admitted, vulnerable (drug addicts, abuse victims and so on) and possibly easily led.

A 10-minute consultation is often not enough time to look after the patients' health issues, never mind indulge in their ‘spiritual' needs, so it is possible that in so doing the health issues may be neglected.

I try to practise evidence-based medicine and my ‘faith' in any particular treatment relies on that evidence.

Dr Scott mentions studies looking at the impact of faith. I genuinely would like to hear of the evidence he alludes to, as I have an open mind and will use this if my patients will benefit. However, I would only be interested in the results from proper, peer-reviewed, double-blind trials, not hearsay or anecdotes such as ‘an infertile woman became pregnant once I had prayed for her'. Do I even need to mention how many people die or suffer despite prayers?

I know of one double-blind trial in the US concerning prayer and recovery from cardiac surgery. The results were inconclusive, but did veer towards a negative outcome for those who were prayed for – perhaps they thought their condition was more serious because they needed prayers?

I imagine if Dr Scott had not done anything to upset his patient he wouldn't have been referred to the GMC.

Just today at lunchtime a patient who had recently lost her husband accidentally called me ‘Father' as we were chatting, so I well understand that some patients (fewer as time goes on) take solace in their beliefs. But let's keep medicine secular, for God's sake.

From Dr Andrew Clarke,
Newton Aycliffe, County Durham

Credit: Savio Sebastian, Flickr Credit: Savio Sebastian, Flickr Want to write us a letter?

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