Keep doctors out of exorcisms, NSS warns medical regulator
Posted: Wed, 11th Oct 2023
Church of England guidance updated this year permits exorcism of children under 16.
Doctors should not be professionally involved in exorcisms, the National Secular Society has told the medical regulator.
Church of England "Deliverance Ministry" guidance, updated in March, states "a medical professional must be consulted" when "formal rites of deliverance are being considered".
The guidance describes exorcism as "the 'binding and releasing', the 'casting out' or 'expelling' of an evil or malevolent possessing spirit that is not human". It may involve "the laying on of hands or any 'casting out' of demons".
In a letter to the General Medical Council (GMC), which regulates doctors, the NSS said exorcism is "not a recognised NHS treatment" and there is evidence "it can be harmful to patients".
In 2015, a Christian GP was struck off after he instructed a patient to stop taking psychiatric medication and instead undergo exorcism at the church he ran.
The NSS said it was "particularly concerned" that the Church's guidance allows exorcism of children under the age of 16. The guidance adds parental consent is not always required when the child is 16 or over.
The NSS said telling a child they are possessed by a demon may be "inherently harmful" and doctors should not be involved in deeming a child 'medically fit' to undergo an exorcism. Medical involvement could lend exorcism "undue legitimacy" and may falsely suggest it is based in medical science, the letter added.
GMC guidance states "you must make sure the information you publish is factual and can be checked, and does not exploit patients' vulnerability or lack of medical knowledge".
The NSS called on the GMC to set out its opposition to the professional involvement of doctors in exorcisms, as it has with so-called 'conversion therapy'.
NSS: 'Medical profession should play no part in legitimising exorcism'
NSS campaigns officer Dr Alejandro Sanchez said: "It will come as a surprise to many that the Church of England, an arm of the British state, still permits the 'exorcism' of children to be carried out under its auspices.
"The medical profession should play no part in legitimising this practice."
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