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Personal beliefs and medical practice. Asad; Lale`; Rob; . GMC guidance: personal beliefs and medical practice; 2008. The guidance tackles questions such as: Is it ever appropriate for doctors to discuss matters of religious faith with their patients?

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gmc guidance personal beliefs and medical practice 2008
GMC guidance: personal beliefs and medical practice; 2008

The guidance tackles questions such as:

  • Is it ever appropriate for doctors to discuss matters of religious faith with their patients?
  • A patient asks for advice from a doctor who believes it is morally wrong. Is that doctor expected to refer the patient to a colleague?
  • A doctor has been asked to circumcise a male child. There is no medical reason for the procedure. Should they refuse?
patient s personal belief
Patient’s personal belief
  • Refusal of blood products by Jehovah’s Witnesses
  • Muslim patient fasting in the month of ramadan
  • Circumcision of male children for religious or cultural reasons
gmc guidance
GMC guidance
  • You must make the care of your patient your first concern (‘The duties of a doctor’).
  • You must treat your patients with respect, whatever their life choices and beliefs (paragraph 7).
  • You must respect patients’ right to hold religious or other beliefs and should take those beliefs into account where they may be relevant to treatment options.  However, if patients do not wish to discuss their personal beliefs with you, you must respect their wishes.
  • You must respect patient’s right to decision making.
refusing treatment
Refusing treatment
  • Patients who have capacity (that is, who can understand, believe, retain and weigh the necessary information) can make their own decisions to refuse treatment, even if those decisions appear irrational to the doctor or may place the patient’s health or their life at risk.
requests for treatment
Requests for treatment

Mr Leslie Burke v GMC [2005] EWCA Civ 1003

This case concerned a wide range of issues, most of which related to decision-making at the end of life. However, for the purposes of this guidance, the key point is the Court of

Appeal’s opinion that

  • doctors are under no legal or ethical obligation to agree to a patient’s request for treatment if they consider the treatment is not in the patient’s best interests.
doctor s personal belief
Doctor’s personal belief
  • All doctors have personal beliefs which affect their day-to-day practice. Some doctors’ personal beliefs may give rise to concerns about carrying out or recommending particular procedures for patients. Conscientious objection
  • Care of patients pre- and post- termination of pregnancy
  • Circumcision of male child for religious/cultural reasons
  • Completion of cremation forms
gmc guidance9
GMC guidance

Doctors’ personal beliefs

  • Your first duty as a doctor is to make the care of your patient your first concern.
  • You must not allow any personal views that you hold about patients to prejudice your assessment of their clinical needs or delay or restrict their access to care. This includes your view about a patient’s age, colour, culture, disability, ethnic or national origin, gender, lifestyle, marital or parental status, race, religion or beliefs, sex, sexual orientation, or social or economic status.
  • You should not normally discuss your personal beliefs with patients unless those beliefs are directly relevant to the patient’s care.
  • You must not withhold information about the existence of a procedure or treatment because carrying it out or giving advice about it conflicts with your religious or moral beliefs.
slide10
You must be open with patients - both in person and in printed materials such as practice leaflets - about any treatments or procedures which you choose not to provide or arrange because of a conscientious objection, but which are not otherwise prohibited.
  • You have an overriding duty to provide care for patients who are in need of medical treatment, whatever the cause of that medical need.  It is not acceptable to seek to opt out of treating a particular patient or group of patients because of your personal beliefs or views about them.
slide11

If carrying out a particular procedure or giving advice about it conflicts with your religious or moral beliefs, and this conflict might affect the treatment or advice you provide, -------

  • Doctor should respect patient’s wishes regardless of conscientious objection to the procedure. Doctor should always be neutral.
  • Doctor should advise the patient against the procedure because according to his/her own belief the procedure is wrong.
  • Doctor can opt out of such procedure. Doctor’s right of refusal to treatment on the basis of conscientious objection is protected by law.
slide12
In England, Wales and Scotland the right to refuse to participate in terminations of pregnancy is protected by law.
  • Section 4(1) of the Abortion Act 1967 (in force in England, Wales and Scotland) permits that
    • ‘no person shall be under any duty, whether by contract or by any statutory or other legal requirement, to participate in the treatment authorised in this Act to which he has a conscientious objection’.
slide13
If carrying out a particular procedure or giving advice about it conflicts with your religious or moral beliefs, and this conflict might affect the treatment or advice you provide, -------

you must explain this to the patient and tell them they have the right to see another doctor.

You must be satisfied that the patient has sufficient information to enable them to exercise that right.

If it is not practical for a patient to arrange to see another doctor, you must ensure that arrangements are made for another suitably qualified colleague to take over your role.

Examples  abortion, circumcision, withdrawal of life-prolonging treatment, embryo research, fertility treatments

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You have no legal or ethical right to refuse to provide medical care before or after any procedure from which you have withdrawn because of your beliefs.
  • In emergencies, doctors’ personalbeliefs may have to take second place to ensuring patient safety.

GMC

  • BMA
slide15
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