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Experienced Community Paediatrician Dismissed From Adoption Panel Over Christian Views Has Been Reinstated

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A Christian paediatrician, dismissed as a medical adviser because she could not professionally recommend the placement of children with same-sex couples, has been reinstated by Northamptonshire County Council following media and public support.

A Christian paediatrician, dismissed as a medical adviser because she could not professionally recommend the placement of children with same-sex couples, has been reinstated by Northamptonshire County Council following media and public support.

Dr Sheila Matthews, a community paediatrician with over 18 years experience of advising parents and children in Northamptonshire, had been removed as a medical adviser to Northamptonshire County Council’s adoption panel after asking to be able to abstain from voting on the ‘rare’ occasions when she would be asked, professionally, to recommend children be adopted by same-sex parents.

Dr Sheila Matthews, who has been a medical adviser to the County’s Adoption Panel for five years believes it is “inappropriate to place children in a household with same sex parents as the best option”. She says: “As a professional I have done a lot of reading around the subject and am satisfied that there are research findings which support my position that a same sex partnership is not the best family setting to bring up children. As a Christian and a paediatrician I believe that children do best with a mother and father in a committed, long term relationship. Therefore, I cannot recommend a same-sex household to be in the best interest of a child, despite what politicians may have legislated for, and as those on the Panel have a legal obligation to do what is in the best interest of the child, then I am not able to vote in favour of such placements”.

Dr Matthews sought a reasonable compromise with the Council, requesting that in applications by same sex couples, she wished to be allowed to abstain from voting (i.e. not vote yes or no). There would still be a majority vote and so this would not hinder the rest of the Panel making a decision. However, the then Head of Services for Children, Young People and Families, advised her she could no longer continue in her role as a panel member and that another medical advisor should be identified.

Dr Matthews, from Kettering, sought advice and support from the high-profile Christian Legal Centre, which instructed leading Human Rights barrister, Paul Diamond, to represent Dr Matthews.

Following CLC’s advice, a lead article about the case in the Sunday Telegraph, other media and public support, the council has backed down and allowed Dr Matthews to continue as an adviser although the Council has said she will no longer be able to attend the adoption panel as a voting member.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, barrister and director of the CLC said: “We are grateful for the support of the media and the pressure this applied, and to the members of public who made their feelings known to the council, and their desire for justice to prevail.

We are delighted that Sheila Matthews will be able to keep her job as Medical Adviser, contributing reports and advising on individual cases. However, it is entirely unsatisfactory that she is unable to remain a panel member and vote on the adoption panel on cases where placement with a heterosexual couple is the proposed outcome. We are hoping the Council will see further sense and allow Dr Matthews to remain a voting panel member, giving advice on health matters directly to Panel and participating in discussions but with the freedom to abstain on the rare occasions where placement is proposed with a same sex couple.”

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