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GPs call for conscience opt-out over SORs

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Issued on behalf of Dr John Lockley


Press Release

For Immediate Release

6th February 2007

GENERAL Practitioners are being urged to request a 'conscience opt-out' in the new Sexual Orientations Regulations (SORs) relating to gay adoption, similar to the way they are protected over abortion.

Dr John Lockley, a Bedfordshire GP and a medical adviser to a local adoption agency, says that under the Equality Act, if, on grounds of conscience he refuses to provide a positive reference for a gay couple wanting to adopt, he could be taken to court and ultimately, struck off the register by the General Medical Council.

He said: "Under the proposed SORs I will be failing to comply with the Government’s proposed Sexual Orientation Regulations if I object to a homosexual couple as potential adoptive parents: I will also be subject to disciplinary action by the adoption agency. Worse, if I am found to have discriminated against the gay couple, and the claimants inform the GMC, they will have to investigate and GPs who persistently refuse on conscience grounds to provide positive references for gay patients will risk being struck off the register."

Dr Lockley says that whilst he has a very good relationship with gay patients on his list, if asked to provide detailed information about their stability and suitability to bring up a child in a same-sex partnership, on conscience grounds he is not prepared to do so as he believes the best interests of children are served by raising them with a mother and a father.

The GP, a Christian, has been encouraged by the local medical committee of the British Medical Association to put forward a motion calling for a debate on the subject at this Spring's annual representatives meeting. In the meantime, Dr Lockley says his peers – whether they hold religious allegiance or not – should seriously consider the impact of the SOR on their consciences, careers and livelihoods.

The GP believes the Government should give doctors an opt-out clause, similar to Section Four (4) of the 1967 Abortion Act. Section 4 preserves the right of doctors to refuse to be involved in the process of carrying out an abortion if in doing so, they would be forced to act against their own conscience or ethics, provided they ensure the patient is referred to another clinician who will take over the care of the patient.

Dr Lockley said: "I respect the freedom that God has given everyone over whether they choose to obey His laws or not. So it is not for me to force my Christian ideas on others: equally, it is not for others to force their ideas on me.

"A solution to the gay adoption problem is already in existence within the Abortion laws. The patient’s rights under the law are upheld, as are the rights of carers who wish to follow their own consciences. A similar principle should be introduced into the Sexual Orientation Regulations immediately."

Ends.

For further information:

Andrea Williams, Public Policy Officer, Lawyers Christian Fellowship 0771 259 1164;
Paul Eddy (PR) 01202 522177, 07851 007 187.

Editor's Note:

Section 4 of the Abortion Act 1967 reads: S.4 (1) Subject to subsection (2) of this section, no person shall be under duty, whether by contract or by any statutory or other legal requirement, to participate in any treatment authorised by this Act to which he has a conscientious objection. Provided that in any legal proceedings, the burden of proof of conscientious objection shall rest on the person seeking to rely on it.

(2) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall affect any duty to participate in treatment which is necessary to save the life or prevent grave personal injury to the physical or mental health of a pregnant woman.

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