Wednesday, July 01, 2009

British Medical Association Conference: Votes on Prayer, Abortion Ads and Euthanasia

(see below for updates following the vote)
The following item was up for debate at the BMA meeting today:

(para 368) Motion by THE AGENDA COMMITTEE: That this Meeting:
(i) recognises that the NHS is committed to providing spiritual care for patients;
(ii) notes the position on inappropriate discussion of faith matters in GMC Guidance on
Personal Beliefs and Medical Practice;
(iii) while welcoming the constructive and necessary advice in the document "Religion or
belief", is concerned that some paragraphs suggest that any discussion of spiritual matters
with patients or colleagues could lead to disciplinary action;
(iv) believes that offering to pray for a patient should not be grounds for suspension;
(v) calls on Health Departments to allow appropriate consensual discussion of spiritual matters
within the NHS, when done with respect for the views and sensitivities of individuals.

It's scheduled for 10.25 this morning, and you can follow it live here. 15 minutes scheduled for the debate. I'd understood that it was the Christian Medical Association which was behind this debate, but from the agenda there are several motions put forward by regional BMA groups.

Ruth Gledhill following it on her blog today. There's other debates on stem cell research, euthanasia and medical ethics today, see the agenda (linked at the top of the post).

Update 2: The vote has just happened: in favour of parts 1 and 2, but against 3, 4, 5. Clear majority on all counts. So the BMA conference recognises that the NHS is committed to providing spiritual care for patients, but doesn't believe that medical staff should take the initiative in offering it. Mood seemed to be that it's the spiritual professionals (chaplains etc.) who can do this, but medical staff shouldn't, as that's not their job.

Update 3 The conference also voted against this motion:

That this Meeting believes that the proposed use of TV advertising for abortion services will continue to send the wrong message to young women; namely that sex is a values-free activity and that consequences have a quick medical fix. We call upon the
BMA to:
(i) oppose TV advertising for abortion;
(ii) continue to support values-based education on sex and relationships

and against this one:

That this Meeting would support a change in legislation to:
(i) ensure that those accompanying the patient at an assisted death, but not actively
participating, will not be subject to criminal prosecution;
(ii) allow the choice of an assisted death by patients who are terminally ill and who have mental

Update: Doug Chaplin notes that the NSS now supports the '£40m' that the NHS spends on chaplaincy. They really are having a good week for U-turns. The NSS reporting is a typical piece of cobblers: "Doctors have voted down a Christian motion at the BMA conference that would have given carte blanche for religious medical practitioners to “share their faith” without restraint." They clearly haven't read the motion, or if they have are wilfully misrepresenting it. But that's another post.......

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