The Good Doctor’s Blog: Protecting the vulnerable

Blog-piece by Dr Emil Shehadeh

GPs wear many hats. One of the latest we have to wear is safeguarding the vulnerable. This is a necessary and worthwhile activity, no doubt. However, this new responsibility has not come with any additional resources to facilitate the role. GPs are now supposed to act as detectives, albeit in a good cause. However, the NHS has not thought about the additional time it takes to create and keep a register and review records of those perceived to be at risk. Outside general practice there are a number of other professionals, including and especially social services and CCGs, who have also dedicated a lot of time to safeguarding the vulnerable.

So far, safeguarding has consisted of the hard task of detecting those at risk and doing something to reduce their risk of being harmed or abused. In a system which preaches that prevention is better than cure, is it not prudent to ask what has been done to prevent people from becoming vulnerable?! Indeed, what has been done to prevent the wrongdoer from finding their despicable behaviour rewarding in any way?

This is where authorities need to acknowledge that there is a moral aspect to this problem, which, in the name of political correctness, we have failed to acknowledge and continue to fail to address. We are very quick to medicalise social problems. Medicalisation conveniently obviates the need for a moral assessment or for corrective action. The pill of morality is too bitter for our modern amoral society. We are shying away from the concept of evil or wrongdoing. We live in a relativistic age divested of clear moral values. The fact that social problems can lead to medical problems, does not mean that the solution must be medical. It definitely means that the most sensible solution is social. At a time when the NHS is gasping for fiscal breath, one must ask what has been done to deal with the problem at its roots.

A child abuser, a man or woman who abuses an elderly person are guilty of moral wrong doing. What has gone wrong to allow a person to do evil deeds without remorse? Why have those restraints that most decent people have, vanished from the psyche of these abusers? Is this a medical problem?

No doubt, in a minority of cases there may be a psychotic element at work. There may be severe depression. But in the vast majority, there is a moral aspect missing from that individual’s make up. Their constitution lacks moral fibre. No moral values have been inculcated into them. There is an ongoing national debate about whether we should teach morality in schools, and how we teach it. The debate grows more heated when it comes to the “what is morality”. For me, it is sad that we find ourselves at this juncture. That Great Britain in the 21st century, with all its rich Christian heritage is asking these basic questions, when the answer is staring us in the face, is tragic.

When I was a medical student in Glasgow , I used to go jogging. My favourite route took me under the Kelvin bridge, where the following words are embossed in steel: “Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of His Word, and the praising of His name”. This harks back to a time when Great Britain had moral standards deeply rooted in our Judeo-Christian faith. Liberals have constantly hacked away at our Judeo-Christian heritage to the point that you are more likely to hear Christ’s name in a swear word or some expletive, than in a rational conversation about right and wrong.

Religion, like it or loathe it, is a moral preservative. The fact that religion can be abused, is no reason to dismiss it. Many of the things we enjoy in life are open to abuse, such as alcohol, money and sex. No one has called for a ban on these! Yet we have actively squeezed Christianity out of our lives under the pretext of multifaithism and other feeble excuses. What has become of the Ten Commandments? These used to be taught in school and Sunday School. Now it is not “cool” to go to Sunday School, whatever cool means! There is another totally amoral word, “cool”. Honour thy father and mother, this simple commandment, holds the secret to many of the safeguarding issues we have failed to tackle. Love thy neighbour as thyself is another. Why don’t we teach these religious precepts anymore?! A child who is brought up to think there is no God, is less likely to refrain from doing wrong. He has no higher being to fear or honour. What incentive for good behaviour is left?!

Mr Cameron was recently brutally maligned for asserting that Great Britain is a Christian country. The truth is that we are only nominally Christian. What is needed is for people to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. St Paul has a lesson for both parents and children, which we would do well to heed: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”

My best countryman, Jesus of Nazareth once said “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.”. The reverse is true. Abuse a child, and they will grow into an abuser. Bring back Sunday Schools and the Ten Commandments, and the Sermon on the Mount. These are the best insurance for a decent loving and caring society. We are the poorer for casting them out of our lives.

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