Clinical Psychologist, Dr Sara Melly, a director of the Secular Medical Forum gave a talk on “Religion in Healthcare: What’s the Harm?” on Sunday 20th July at the Hop Blossom Pub Farnham.
John de Prey reports on the meeting:
“It is widely thought that religion in healthcare can’t do any harm – but it can – according to clinical psychologist Dr Sara Melly. Chaplains are selected by their religious organisations. There are no formal requirements for counselling qualifications or psychology degrees. Perhaps there should be.
Religious hospital staff or GPs may not provide unbiased care for sex workers, gays, patients seeking contraception advice or needing a pregnancy termination. Religious
commitment is not disclosed in advance; therefore a long awaited appointment to such practitioners may waste valuable time, and sometimes patients may not be able to easily seek help or advice elsewhere. Religious views also come into play over such issues as end of life care and assisted suicide. Boys, too young to object, are circumcised under the NHS. Dr Melly argued that this surely amounts to child abuse.
Hospital chaplains currently cost the country twenty nine million pounds annually, equivalent to two nurses per hospital trust. Religions hold the monopoly, but what they offer is arguably irrelevant to most of us who might benefit more from skilled non-judgemental support in hospital and a non – biased consideration of our rights and needs.”
“The Secular Medical Forum campaigns for a secular approach to current major health issues. We are opposed to religious influences in Medicine where these affect the manner in which medical practice is performed. We campaign to protect patients from the harm caused by the imposition of religious values and activities on people who do not share the same values and beliefs. The SMF directs itself to the improvement of the human condition. SMF members do not recognise the assumed authority of religious bodies and we challenge their traditional privileges in healthcare service provision or decision-making.”