Wednesday, 7 March 2012
Doctrine in the House
Imagine that an NHS doctor - a Jehovah's Witness convert - woke up one day and decided to mount a legal challenge - against being required to work with blood or blood products in one of our hospitals.
The logic of the challenge would be that blood transfusions and suchlike are against the religious beliefs of Jehovah Witnesses - and that to compel a nurse to deny their religious beliefs would be to trample all over their human rights.
Maybe the same thing could happen in a totally different kind of scenario - one where a member of hospital staff refused to be involved in the treatment of somone who is gay or lesbian - for example.
Again on the gounds that their deeplyheld religious beliefs outlaw such behaviour - which might even be proscribed in Holy Books - which some people believe to be the literal word of God, of course.
In other words that their religious convictions should allow such staff a veto effectively - on whether they should be required to care for certain categories of patients.
I don't think so - because just last week two Catholic midwives in Scotland challenged the NHS over whether or not they were required to be involved - even indirectly - in the care of women using abortion services.
Here's an extract of the BBC's report on the case:
The midwifery sisters were employed as labour ward co-ordinators at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.
The women had given notice of their conscientious objection under the abortion legislation many years ago, but became concerned when all medical terminations were moved to the labour ward in 2007.
They claimed that previously they were not called on to delegate, supervise or support staff engaged in the care of patients undergoing terminations, although the health authority disputed this.
The health board maintained that the Abortion Act did not confer on the midwives any right to refuse to delegate, support or supervise staff providing nursing care for women going through abortions.
The case was dismissed in the courts - I'm pleased to say.
In my experience the NHS does have a proper regard for the religious and cultural sensitivites of staff - where that's appropriate.
But when push comes to shove the interests of patients must surely come first - othwerwise it's a very slippery slope on which to organise care in our hospitals - and elsewhere.