I don’t know how many of you have been following this story about Caroline Petrie, the nurse who was suspended from her job with North Somerset PCT for offering to pray for a patient; or this one, which is related to the first one and has emerged in the last few days; or any of the blogs, like this and this, that have been commentating on the issue.
If you haven’t, the first thing you should do is read the actual Department of Health document that everyone’s shouting about.
With the exception of one Guardian blogger, everything that I’ve read in the last day or two has been either people talking about ‘political correctness gone mad’ and saying that of course Christians should be able to proselytise at whomever they choose, or people calling for the stoning of everyone who has ever believed in a higher power and an absolute end to all this religious claptrap. I’m a practicing Episcopalian (albeit a liberal secularist one) and I find myself with more sympathy for those in the latter camp.
But someone needs to be the voice of reason, and it looks like that someone is going to be me. This is the letter that I sent out to the editor of every major newspaper in the UK last night:
I am writing to express my support for the staff religious guidelines that were issued by the Department of Health last month and have been released into the wider public awareness in the wake of Caroline Petrie’s suspension.
I can only imagine that the individuals who are protesting these guidelines have never had unsolicited and unwelcome religious overtures made to them when they were at their most vulnerable.
I am a medical student and a Christian.
My faith affects the choices I make and the way I live my life, but it does it quietly. I don’t proselytise to my colleagues, I don’t offer to pray for the people I meet in a professional setting, and I don’t wear a crucifix where there might be patients. It’s something personal, something that I keep between me and my God, and, most importantly, it has nothing to do with my job.
Nobody is saying that NHS staff have to choose between their beliefs and their job. Nobody is going refuse to give me a job because I go to church on a Sunday morning and celebrate Christmas for more than just the mince pies.
They are saying that all patients have the right to be treated with equal respect, that healthcare professionals should not impose their religious conscience on those patients, and that doctors and nurses are not priests and shouldn’t try to be.
It should be common sense, and I am saddened and disappointed to discover that it isn’t.
University of Glasgow Medical School