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Friday, February 13, 2009

"Best practices" in health care

Last month the UK's Department of Health issued a guide on religion for British health care providers.  Much of it is unobjectionable and unsurprising (proselytizing=boo! raising awareness=yay!), but one section stopped me in my tracks.  In the section headed "trans people," the Department notes that because some religions "do not embrace" "trans people," providers "may be faced with a situation where a member of staff objects to working with or treating a trans person on the grounds of their religious beliefs."  In such cases, "anti-discrimination and bullying and harassment policies should be equally applied."  Fair enough, but then the Department gives the following "Good practice example," quoting from a recent news story:

"A bishop gave his blessing yesterday to a vicar who is to have a sex change operation before resuming his ministry as a woman.  The Rev Peter Stone, 46, who will be known as Carol, is the first priest serving in the Church of England to have 'gender redesignation' treatment.  The Bishop of Bristol, Rt Rev Barry Rogerson, said there were 'no ethical or ecclesiastical legal reasons why the Rev Carol Stone could not continue in ministry in the Church of England.'  He said he had researched the issue of trans and consulted Lambeth Palace before approving Mr. Stone's continued ministry.  Mr. Stone has the 'overwhelming support' of his congregation . . . ."

Why exactly is the Church of England's decision to allow a transgendered priest to continue his/her ministry an example of best practices cited by the government to guide all British health care providers?  Seems to be a not-so-subtle suggestion that providers who have religious objections to sex change procedures are not just potential threats to patient autonomy (which is the traditional, and understandable, concern), but that their religious objections are groundless.  Isn't this a remarkably illiberal stance for the state to take, or is there some other rationale that I might be missing?  And for those who know more about these issues than I do, is this part of a broader trend?

Posted by Rob Vischer on February 13, 2009 at 11:15 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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