As doctors we should not allow our personal beliefs to affect our professional relationship with patients. These personal beliefs include views on a patient's age, colour, culture, disability, ethnic/national origin, gender, lifestyle, marital or parental status, race, religion or beliefs, sex, sexual orientation or social or economic status.2
There are a number of examples where a doctor's personal beliefs may interfere with appropriate patient care:
- Patient care pre- and post-termination
- If a woman requires medical care before or after a termination of pregnancy, a doctor is required (both legally and ethically) to provide it, regardless of his/her beliefs 4.
- The completion of cremation forms
- A doctor must sign a cremation form if required to do so.
- Failing to sign the form may result in a post-mortem examination of the deceased and subsequent delay and unnecessary distress to the family.
- Wearing clothing or other insignia of religious affiliation.
- Although no formal guidelines exist on the above, it should be noted that doing so may result in difficulty establishing rapport and gaining the trust of the patient - thus creating a potential barrier to effective communication.3
Patient's personal beliefs may also affect care, the most obvious manifestation of this is seen with religious beliefs.
Essential treatment can be refused (conscientious objection); Jehovahs' Witnesses and the use of blood and blood products or non-essential intervention requested; Jewish and Islamic faiths seeking male circumcisions.
- GMC: Duties of a Doctor
- GMC: Valuing Diversity - Guidance for Doctors
- GMC: Personal Beliefs and Medical Practice (March 2008)
- Janaway v Salford Health Authority All England Law Rep 1988 Dec 1; 3:1079-84
- GMC: Conflicts of Interest (September 2008)
- Medical Act (1983)
- Public Interest Disclosure Act (1998)
- Health Service Circular (1999/198)
- GMC: Maintaining Boundaries - Guidance for Doctors (November 2006)
- GMC: Raising Concerns about Patient Safety - Guidance for Doctors (November 2006)
- Kerr/Haslam Inquiry (2005)