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Divine answer to earthly question

Gideons International recently asked Leicester NHS Trust if it could put Bibles into patients’ bedside lockers. The hospital responded that they would like some time to investigate whether or not there was a possibility that having the same Bible there for each occupant might pose an MRSA risk. To me, that seems a sensible request.

Iain Mair, executive director of Gideons International UK doesn’t think it’s sensible:

They are saying there’s a potential MRSA risk, and we say that is nonsense

I’m not sure what expertise Mr Mair has in the field of infection control, but I’m fairly convinced that he doesn’t have quite the same qualifications as the Trust’s Infections Control team. He claims that Gideons International have commissioned reports from consultants to disprove the theory. Surely there would be little point in commissioning such research if he is not then going to allow the Trust to examine the research prior to reaching a decision on the matter?

The tabloids have become (predictably) become angry about a ” hospital plan to ban Bibles” recently. Despite the fact that there is, as yet, no such plan. But that’s not the kind of thing that’s stopped them before. Other papers called it ‘tantamount to banning the Bible from NHS wards’. That’s obviously not true either.

The Leicester NHS Trust also wish to take time to consider whether allowing the provision of these Bibles would appear as the Trust favouring one religion over another. Which is a fair enough thing to consider. Unless you’re Iain Mair, in which case…

It’s political correctness gone mad.

It would clearly be impractical to have a whole library of religious books supplied to each patient. And yet, I wonder if Mr Mair would think it ‘PC gone mad’ if all patients were to be supplied with copies of the Koran, and, along with his plan, given advice that ‘other religious texts are available’.

The Trust wants to investigate the possibility of tracking which patients have come into contact with which texts, so that potentially infectious ones could be removed from circulation. That seems fair, if something of an invasion of privacy. The best solution, as I see it, would be to make patients aware that religious texts were freely available to take away and take home. That way, the religious texts get further than just being something to read when you’re bored in hospital, and the infection problem is essentially overcome.

I’m sure the Trust will come up with a solution that will be appropriate to all parties. Although, frankly, I’d be rather less inclined to help when Gideons International want to make such a fuss over such a small issue. But that’s probably just me.

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

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Comments and responses

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    02.31, 05/06/2005

Apologies for the horrific typos in the post title – I’ve corrected them now, so hopefully only email subscribers will be shocked at two out of five words being spelled incorrectly.

Comment from Pieter

    14.01, 06/06/2005

The other faiths don’t agreee with your comments


Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    21.23, 06/06/2005

Thanks for your link, I read it with interest. However, I still don’t see how anyone can fail to agree that it is sensible to ensure that these books are not spreading MRSA. How the reaction can be “ridiculous and extreme”, as a member of the Muslim Council of Great Britain says, is simply beyond me.

Prof Harminder Singh’s comment (“in 30 years of working with interfaith groups this has never been an issue”) makes more sense – but then, MRSA hasn’t been such a big issue for the last thirty years. The virus has only been around for about twenty years, and has been causing the NHS a problem for much less time than even that.

I have to admit that I find the ‘offending people of other religions’ idea slightly less convincing in a general sense, but given that only 44% of people in Leicester call themselves Christian, I guess it’s quite important to look at the feelings of the majority non-Christians.

The most comical thing about all of this is that (if and) when the Trust completes its thorough investigation into the issue and decides that the medical evidence says they don’t pose a threat, and so the Bibles can be replaced, the popular press and religious activists will claim a victory. The tragedy is that most people will believe them.

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    22.41, 08/06/2005

Zoe Williams has written an excellent Grauniad column on this subject, which is well worth a read.

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