April 2, 2013
Secular doctors fear that new GMC guidance conflicts with the equality act.
Secular doctors say new GMC guidance on personal belief and medical practice[i] effective from April 22nd will expose some children to serious harm. Referring to ritual male circumcision, doctors are now instructed that they ‘must include parents’ religious beliefs’[ii] when assessing the child’s best interests. Secular doctors are dismayed that the guidance will support doctors who defer to parents’ insistence that it is in a healthy child’s best interests to undergo forced genital cutting for no medical reason.
Dr Lempert, a GP and chair of the Secular Medical Forum, said: ‘This new guidance conflicts with international medical consensus. Senior representatives of European paediatric associations, including the British Association of Paediatric Surgeons, recently stated[iii] that circumcision "constitutes a violation of the UN convention on the rights of the child’ and can have ‘serious long-term consequences".’
‘The GMC is failing to protect children by not distinguishing between reasonable decisions necessarily made by parents on behalf of children in need of medical care, and parental requests to surgically impose their own religious beliefs on the healthy body of a child unable to give consent.’
‘The guidelines support doctors who collude with parents seeking circumcision for non-medical reasons. Proper child safeguarding procedures should be followed when a parent seeks forced cutting of their child’s genitals. That parents have voluntarily chosen to follow a religion for which circumcision is an obligation is not a sufficient reason to permit the child to be harmed in this way and should form no part of GMC guidance to doctors.’
‘The SMF considers this GMC exception to child safeguarding only for male children subject to forced genital cutting to be of serious concern. According to legal advice received by the SMF, the new guidance incites doctors to breach the 2010 Equality Act.
‘The SMF calls on the GMC to instruct doctors that the interests and safety of a child must not be overridden by the religious or cultural beliefs of parents. Doctors should be advised that they must not cut into the normal genitalia of a child under any circumstances.’
[ii] http://www.gmc-uk.org/Personal_beliefs_and_medical_practice.pdf_51462245.pdf Paragraph 20
[iii] Pediatrics Vol 131 (4) April 2013