Wouldn’t you know it, my favourite religious commentator (and I favour one religious commentator over another in the sense that I favour a hangover over a migraine or burst aneurysm) George Pitcher has weighed into the prayer on the wards coverage.
Guess what? His opinions aren’t impressive.
[I]t’s ludicrous and oppressive that the NHS should have sought to drive religious faith out of medical care. Hospitals were founded on Christian principles of ministry and many, if not most, patients are going to glean comfort from the pastoral care of the faithful, especially at the ends of their lives.
Just a few thoughts here: there’s nothing oppressive about ensuring the non-introduction of something that shouldn’t be there; some hospitals might have been founded on Christian principles – whatever the hell they are – but that’s beside the point, and, anyway, not all were; the fact that this is why some were founded doesn’t tell us that this should still be their guiding principle; Christian ministry in relation to health might have made sense in the middle ages when people actually did believe that there were actual physical demons, but it doesn’t make sense now; where’s your evidence about people gleaning comfort from pastoral care?; and how does pastoral care relate to offers of prayer?
If [a] doctor does share a faith with the patient, then it is not only natural, but also highly efficacious, for the doctor to pray with and for his or her healing.
Efficacious in what sense? That it improves the outcome in a way that medicine doesn’t? Evidence, please.
The problem to date is that we have made no distinction between this kind of professional care and the preying on the vulnerable that can occur with religious zealots.
But the right to be a zealot is exactly what’s being requested. And I see what you did with the pun. Very good. Well done you.
If the BMA can refine and clarify the rules, then everyone will benefit – and faith can take its rightful place again at the bedside, enabling all who minister to them to observe the divine charge to visit the sick and comfort the dying.
Faith’s rightful place is not at the bedside. It’s a long way from the bedside. That’s the whole point. And, really, do you honestly think that care for the vulnerable is a divine charge? Because, again, that seems to imply either that it’s something that the infidel won’t be able to display – which is a false and mendacious accusation – or that the infidel is doing god’s work without knowing it – which seems to be a specious and ad hoc modification on a par with the introduction of epicyles into Ptolemaic astronomy.