Dr Janette Lockhart says: ‘In my view religion should play no part in medicine' and ‘We should remain religion-neutral'
There is no neutral position! Denying the existence or relevance of God to daily life is an atheistic and secular position – it is not neutral.
If a patient presents with a purely physical problem, for example, tonsillitis, then usually a discussion of faith is not appropriate. However, patients often present with emotional and spiritual issues.
A few years ago, a dying patient asked me what lay beyond death. Last week, a man came to see me and started the consultation with: ‘I feel so depressed because I can't see that life has any purpose.' Presumably the atheist GP would have to agree that life is just random, there is nothing beyond and so ultimately there is no purpose – this, however, would not be a ‘neutral' position. However you deal with this sort of consultation, you inevitably convey your own outlook on life in some measure.
I don't think patients come to a GP they know and trust with this sort of issue if they don't want to know what their GP thinks about it.
Over the 25 years I have been a GP, I have talked about faith – gently, sensitively and with the greatest respect for the patient's viewpoint – when it is appropriate, and this has often been a great comfort and help. I wonder what atheist GPs offer at this point?
From Dr Fiona Underhill,
South Woodford, north-east London