Personal beliefs and medical practice



General Medical Council (2024) Good medical practice London, GMC.


This includes your views about a patient’s or colleague’s lifestyle, culture or their social or economic status, as well as the characteristics protected by legislation: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation


For example, if you are the only doctor legally able to sign a cremation certificate, you should not refuse to do so on the basis of your own personal or religious objection to cremation.


The terms ‘discrimination’, ‘harassment’ and ‘protected characteristic’ are explained in the legal annex.


For example, this means that you must not refuse to provide a patient with medical services because the patient is proposing to undergo, is undergoing, or has undergone gender reassignment. However, you may decide not to provide or refer any patients (including patients proposing to undergo gender reassignment) for particular services to which you hold a conscientious objection, for example, treatments that cause infertility.


For example, this means that while you may decide not to provide contraception (including emergency contraception) services to any patient, you cannot be willing to prescribe it only for women who live in accordance with your beliefs (eg by prescribing for married women but not for unmarried women).


Except where those requirements are inconsistent with legislation or where the law provides protection on grounds of conscience.


This is a requirement of the Equality Act 2010. ‘Reasonable adjustments’ does not only mean changes to the physical environment. It can include, for example, being flexible about appointment time or length, and making arrangements for those with communication difficulties, such as impaired hearing. For more information, see the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.


Where you have the knowledge, skills and experience to do so safely.


General Medical Council (2020) Decision making and consent London, GMC.


General Medical Council (2010) Treatment and care towards the end of life: good practice in decision making London, GMC. See paragraphs 13 and 40 – 46.


‘Parents’ here means all those with parental responsibility for the child.


You must also follow our guidance on treating patients aged 0–18 years. General Medical Council (2007) 0–18 years: guidance for all doctors London, GMC, paragraphs 34 – 35.


Airedale NHS Trust v Bland [1993] 1 All ER 821; Re JT (Adult: Refusal of Medical Treatment) [1998] 1 FLR 48 and Re AK (Medical Treatment: Consent) [2001] FLR 129.


For example, many Jehovah's Witnesses have strong objections to the use of blood and blood products, and may refuse them even if they may die as a result. Hospital liaison committees established by the Watch Tower Society (the governing body of Jehovah's Witnesses) can advise on current Society policy. They also keep details of hospitals and doctors who are experienced in ‘bloodless’ medical procedures.


The consent of one parent is sufficient see Re N (A child: Religion: Jehovah’s Witness) [2011] EWHC 3737 (Fam).


You must follow our guidance on maintaining a professional boundary between you and your patient. General Medical Council (2024) Maintaining personal and professional boundaries.