Regulators support trainee doctor threatened with the sack
BY ANNA ARCO
A TRAJNFE Doc-ma threatened with dismissal by his employers for refusing to violate his conscience over abortion referrals and contraception has been vindicated.
With the help of the Thomas More Legal Centre the GP, who cannot be named, received confirmation from the General Medical Council (GMC) that he was acting according to professional medical rules and could not be dismissed or failed in his training for refusing to give abortion advice and prescribe contraceptives.
The doctor, from the south of England, contacted the Thomas More Legal Centre after he was pressured by his employers to refer patients requesting abortions to another doctor and prescribe the morning-after pill. His employer later reported him to the GMC for refusing to comply with the clinic's demands, which could have led to his being struck off the medical register.
Neil Addison, director of the legal centre, said: "He was being heavily pressurised to leave if he refused to change his stance and if he didn't take their advice and leave quietly he would be failed."
The doctor was told that he would be advising patients on abortions, giving referrals for abortions and prescribing contraceptives as part of his training to qualify as a general practitioner. When he explained that his faith made it morally objectionable for him to comply and that he would advise patients about their other options and refer them to the receptionist in order to get another doctor, he was told that he would fail that section of his training and be unable to enter general practice.
Mr Addison said: "They were really trying to get him out of general practice altogether because of his ethical position. They wanted him to resign and become an anaesthetist or something else."
Mr Addison said the doctor's employers changed their attitude drastically after he sought legal advice. The legal centre advised the doctor that he was not acting illegally and that he came under the protection of both the Human Rights Act and Employment Equality Regulations 2003. Mr Addison drafted letters to the employers which laid out the trainee doctor's rights and said that continued pressure from the clinic would constitute unlawful harassment and wilawful victimisation. The doctor was put in front of an independent training board after his educators decided that he had failed to complete the training necessary for entering general practice by refusing to comply with their demands.
The board, however, said that it was very clearly an ethical issue and not a question of academic or practical failure so the case was referred to the GMC.