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Experienced Community Paediatrician to be Removed from Adoption Panel after County Refused her Religious/Conscience Request

Printer-friendly versionA COMMUNITY paediatrician, Dr Sheila Matthews, with 18 years experience working with parents and children in Northamptonshire, is to be removed as a medical advisor to Northamptonshire County Council

Issued by Christian Legal Centre

Press Release

For Immediate Release

16 July 2009

Experienced Community Paediatrician to be Removed from Adoption Panel after County Refused her Religious/Conscience Request

A COMMUNITY paediatrician, with 18 years experience working with parents and children in Northamptonshire, is to be removed as a medical advisor to Northamptonshire County Council after asking to be able to abstain from voting on the ‘rare’ occasions when she would be asked to recommend children for adoption by same-sex couples.

Dr Sheila Matthews, who has been a medical advisor to the Adoption Panel for five years, believes her work is appreciated by social workers and all those involved with adoption in the county. She says: “I try to make fair and unbiased assessments and recommendations about the individuals who apply to adopt. My work involves preparing reports on the health of both children and adult applicants and giving advice on health issues to the Adoption Service. I am happy to carry out that role in full.”

However, as a professional doctor for the past 28 years, and as a Christian, she believes that it is “inappropriate to place children in a household with same sex parents as the best option”. She says: “Using my professional judgement and having done a lot of reading around the subject, I 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. Therefore professionally and personally I cannot recommend placement in 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 they believe is in the best interests of the child, then I cannot support a recommendation with which I do not agree. This conflicts with my professional, religious and personal integrity.

Dr Matthews decided that it was not appropriate to debate the broader religious, psychological and political issues of same sex adoption within the context of each individual application. She also does not wish to cause offence to any individual. She therefore sought what she thought to be a reasonable and appropriate compromise, and requested that in applications by same sex couples, she should to be allowed to abstain from voting (i.e. not vote yes or no ) on the recommendation. She was prepared to carry out all preparation of health reports required for Panel in an unbiased manner. There would still be a majority vote at Panel so this would not hinder the rest of the Panel making a recommendation and the decision to approve applicants lies ultimately with a senior member of Social Services. The Head of Services for Children, Young People and Families, Martin Pratt, after a meeting on April 22, wrote to Dr Matthews advising she could no longer continue in her role as a panel member and that another medical advisor should be identified. Dr Matthews, from Kettering, has asked for advice and support from the high-profile Christian Legal Centre, and has instructed leading Human Rights barrister, Paul Diamond, to represent her.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, director of the CLC said: “This is a further example of how a well respected professional who holds conscientious views on sexual practice, informed by Christian faith, is being asked to choose between her faith and her job. Recent anti-discrimination legislation is having the opposite effect and devout Christians are suffering the consequences. This is not the mark of a free and civilised society where freedom of speech and religion is carefully guarded.’

Dr Matthew’s professional concerns informed by her faith and scientific evidence about the ‘best interests’ of placing children in ‘same-sex’ households are upheld by Dr Dean Byrd, an international expert from the USA who gave evidence in the case of the Family Magistrate Andrew McClintock who had similar concerns to Dr Matthews about placing children into same sex households. Unless the matter is resolved Dr Dean Byrd will be called to give evidence on Dr Matthews’ behalf. He will say that the current adoption procedures in the UK are ‘social experiments’ at best, and at the risk of children’s emotional and psychological well-being, in order to be politically correct. Dr Matthews’ professional conclusions are in the ‘best interests of children’.

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For further Information/interview: Andrea Minichiello Williams, Director, Christian Legal Centre: 0771 259 164

Editor’s Note:

Dr. Dean Byrd, an academic, practitioner and President of NARTH (Highland, Utah). In a recent UK Employment Tribunal case, he appealed against UK Governmental research; Dr Byrd has conducted three decades of research on optimal development of children, and claimed UK Government research to be an unbalanced view. Fathers and Mothers are not inter-changeable. Gender matters for children. His world-wide research concludes that children in same sex unions have outcomes as poor as those of fractured heterosexual families; placing an ‘at risk’ child in a further ‘at risk’ situation makes the situation worse. The current UK adoption policy reinforces poor outcomes and promotes poor lifestyles.


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