Monday, 29 June 2009

Preying on the sick

Interesting piece yesterday over at The Freethinker website about godbothering doctors ‘defending’ the right to pray over (or is that prey on) patients.
Knowing from recent experience how little time most doctors (or health workers in general) have for such twaddle I was puzzled by both this and a Telegraph article on the same theme until discovering an earlier BBC report (see which makes it clear it is the Christian Medical Fellowship, not the medical profession as a whole, dragging us back to the era of prayers and leeches (or priests, as they prefer to be called).
Having seen how this mob hijack conferences of overworked doctors and manage to pass ludicrous ‘motions’ (yes, aware of the pun, but the CMF will always be crap without moral fibre to me) things become clearer.
By the way, from the BBC report I also suspect Dr Birtwhistle may well be a ‘cancer specialist’ in the hospice movement, which revolves around faith, aromatherapy and plastic smiles rather than rational medicine. If you have a rational bone in your body, never EVER allow yourself to be cajoled into dying in one of their hellholes.
In contrast, my experience of hospital doctors is of overworked folk stacking up the hours to keep surgery lists down. When they find a little time to organise outside that it's to lobby government to keep essential public services going, not inessential publically subsidised prayers. In turn this makes me wonder - I'm well aware many CMF members are retired or private sector doctors out of touch with NHS realities, so are the rest just underemployed skivers who need to be cleared out of the public sector?
In my recent troubles I could no longer be bothered arguing with godbothering health workers who offered to pray for me. I just said 'Well, if it makes you feel better...'.
The point is, some folk say it quite innocently and just mean they're thinking of you, which isn't worth winding them up about. The more calculated ones know such 'prayers' are totally for their own benefit, not yours, so I let such professional victims know I realise that without giving them a chance to nail themselves to their silly crosses and whine.
But it doesn't suprise me that, knowing they can't produce solid facts and figures, godbotherers are stirring up pseudo-issues to protect public subsidy of their underemployed clerical chums instead.
But if there ever is talk about making the hospital chaplain part of the 'care plan' I suspect some interesting figures will be revealed. Presumably, to do it properly, they'd have to make 'chaplain's notes' which would become part of the patient's ward records, time, length and content of each visit recorded, and all this would be on the public record in, say, a negligency hearing.
This would make it immediately obvious that they spend little or no time with even the folk they're asked to visit, and that much of a chaplain's work is just consoling grieving relatives and facilitating early release of any body they expect to bury. Undertakers don't get paid to do this, and I'd argue that it's no more than a parish priest's usual job, so why not go the whole hog, stop paying for 'professional' hospital chaplains and tell the churches to sort out their own support services for sick members, like the rest of us already have to do.
Of course, on the Isle of Man this is already the case and the NHS provide a hospital chapel but not funding of chaplains, and that example stands up to scrutiny as ‘good practice’ for elsewhere.
As I’ve mentioned here before, I sit on a hospital committee representing 'other faiths and none' along with three full time clergy who are the 'official' (though unpaid) hospital chaplains. In two years my attendance (unpaid in my work lunch hour, any extra hours away from the desk to be made up in unpaid overtime) equals the three of theirs combined - I've only missed one meeting.
So I suspect we will never get this twaddle from Manx clergy and they will never try it as a local campaign. They do little though perfectly effectively in their way for those who request their help. They also know that, if it came to a survey, most hospital staff would reveal they suffer an imposition by outdated cultural custom rather than appreciate any professional input to the patient 'care package'.
As I witnessed last week, it is also not unusual for a vulnerable regular member of a church congregation to lie in hospital near death and unvisited, because nobody thought to ask where he is when his pew was empty for a month. So much for the closeness of Manx churches and the current ‘third sector’ arguments for more public funding of ‘faith based community work’.

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