In The House of Lords last week The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health, Earl Howe, was responding to questions about a particular non-western approach to healthcare.
There were those Lords who approved of it (Lord Pearson of Rannoch, for instance), those who didn’t (Lord Taverne), those who wanted only a light touch for the regulation about to be proposed for it (Baroness Pitkeathley) and those who wanted to attest personally to its effectiveness. In the latter case, Baroness Sharples said “Is the noble Earl aware that I owe my good health to [it]?”
To which the noble Earl replied, with typically British cordiality, “My Lords, that news is a source of pleasure to me and I am sure to the whole House.”
Towards the end of the discussion, Baroness Browning inquired if Earl Howe knew about certain GPs (General Practitioners) who actually grow their own herbs for medicinal purposes in the garden of their practices.
The Earl Howe gave an unequivocating answer, “My Lords, it is a long-standing practice and tradition in this country that medical professionals should be able to take it upon themselves to prescribe freely, as they see fit, in the interests of the particular patient in front of them.”
How civilised we British can be – allowed to exercise the freedom to choose what works best for us!
So what about that other non-western “medicine”, Christian Science – an approach to healthcare whose adherents generally rely on an exclusively God-centred spiritual approach to healing? Well, yes, adults are free to choose to decline medical care in favour of Christian Science healing in this country. This was clearly spelled out by then Cabinet Minister Douglas Alexander in a Hansard-recorded discussion on the Civil Contingencies Act 2005. (See Assurances Given For Adults’ Right To Forego Medical Treatment Given By Cabinet Minister In Regard To Civil Contingencies Act 2004, see Column Number: 269)
Medical professionals and practitioners of Christian Science share the same motive, to help others maintain or regain their health and well-being, even if the means chosen are different. It is important the eminently sensible British tradition of respecting individual choice of healthcare prevails into the future and that we recognise and reverse the proclivity towards The Medicalisation of Normality, as Health journalist John Naish poignantly and pertinently put it recently on BBC Radio 4.