‘God is your surgeon’: Christian doctor performed exorcism, tribunal hears

A Christian family doctor performed an exorcism on a seriously ill patient after promising he could ‘heal’ her without medication, a Manchester medical tribunal heard yesterday.

GP Dr Thomas O’Brien, 56, persuaded the mother of one to undergo the spiritual procedure at his local Pentecostal church after telling her, ‘God is your surgeon’, it was claimed.

During a four month period leading to the ceremony O’Brien allegedly subjected the patient, who was in great pain after stomach surgery, to ‘religious grooming’ in which he said the ‘devil was having a real go at her’ and that she had ‘devil items’ in her house.

The doctor further exploited her vulnerability by quoting the Bible at her, taking her to religious meetings, praying with her at home and even programming her television remote to satellite TV’s The Gospel Channel, it was said.

O’Brien and his wife Tina, 62, also gave the woman a copy of a book he had written with his wife called the Occult Checklist and got her to meet the local pastor over lunch at a restaurant.

The couple later pressurised the woman into a signing a document called the Prayer of Repentance, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service was told.

The patient, who was also severely depressed, became convinced she had been possessed by demons and all her troubles were because of the devil.

She was told to stop taking anti-depressants and blood pressure medication and allegedly warned not to tell her psychiatrist as O’Brien claimed they were ‘very dangerous’.

She later told her psychiatrist who subsequently reported O’Brien to the General Medical Council.

At a Fitness to Practise hearing in Manchester O’Brien, from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs, faced misconduct charges which include using his professional position to influence the patient’s religious beliefs. 

It is also claimed his actions caused ‘distress’ to the woman and was ‘detrimental’ to her health.

The woman – known as Patient A – had been prescribed anti-depressants, anti -hypertensive and analgesic medication and was said to be suicidal and in great pain after colostomy surgery.

She met O’Brien in August 2012 when he was a locum at Apsley Surgery in the Corbridge Health Centre in Stoke.

Peter Atherton, counsel for the GMC, said: “She first consulted Dr O’Brien by telephone when she was in great pain, depressed and suicidal.

“In the course of that telephone consultation Dr O’Brien asked her if she had a faith and she said she didn’t. He told her his wife knew of a different way that could heal her that did not involve medication.

“Later that same day Dr O’Brien telephoned Patient A and his wife Tina spoke to her. The following day Dr O’Brien went to her home and started to talk to her about God. On that occasion he also programmed the television to the Gospel Channel.

“Dr O’Brien and his wife also invited Patient A for lunch with them and their friends at a local restaurant. One of the friends present was a pastor at the church.

“Dr O’Brien and his wife befriended and attempted to evangelise Patient A. They often prayed with her and took her to meetings where she took part in religious practices.”

Mr Atherton said that Patient A – and other members of her family – was also given numerous religious gifts, including the Occult Checklist and was offered the use of a log cabin.

“It was compiled and written by Tom and Tina O’Brien,” he said.

“Together with that document they included a document called Prayer of Repentance, which they pressurised her, particularly the doctor’s wife, to sign.

“She has said the doctor advised her that, for religious reasons, she should stop taking her medication and not go to see the psychiatrist. When she saw him he advised her that there is a better way. He is linked to the Pentecostal church.

“He and his wife took her to a meeting and at that meeting she was advised against seeing a psychiatrist, that god was her surgeon and she should stop her medication. They also offered her an exorcism and performed it. She was made to feel as if all things going wrong were due to the devil.

“From documents provided by Dr O’Brien it appears he and his wife’s relationship with Patient A was based solely on Christian principles whereas Patient A believes the gifts and acts of kindness amounted to a form of religious grooming designed to cause division within her family – particularly herself and her partner, and caused her great distress.”

She later told her psychiatrist of the doctor’s conduct, who in turn wrote a letter to the General Medical Council and an investigation commenced.

When Dr O’Brien, who qualified as a doctor from the National University of Ireland in 1982, heard about the allegations, he filed a complaint to the GMC about the psychiatrist’s conduct in reporting the matter but the case was quickly dismissed.

An initial report claimed the patient was subjected to a four-hour ‘testimony’ in January 2013 where an exorcism was performed and she claimed O’Brien specifically told her not to tell her psychiatrist about the meetings – because they ‘do the devil’s work’.

The GP is said to have further told her that if she told the GMC ‘she would be cursed’.

The patient ignored this advice and complained to both – after she broke down about her treatment and first told her psychiatrist, who then rang a confidential helpline to report her allegations.

O’Brien later denied all of the accusations, calling them ‘attacks’ on his ‘private Christian faith and life’ and insisting he was a lay Bible teacher

He accepts visiting Patient A’s home shortly after their first consultation, but refutes the allegations against him over the alleged exorcism.

He did not attend the hearing but in a letter said that he has already resigned from medicine.

He said: “I know what went on and what my wife and I did or did not do. Even if they [GMC] did side with me, I know true justice will be done one day and no-one can escape from that. 

“The allegations have been severe enough to break anyone down emotionally and I’m grateful for my faith which sustained me throughout the ordeal.”

He added: “I forgive the patient and her husband and also the psychiatrist for the horrendous allegations against my wife and me.

“We are enjoying living a quiet private life and we are able to help many more people than I would have done by staying in the NHS. God knows everything and will judge fairly.”

The case continues.

Story via Cavendish Press.

Image courtesy of Brittanie Pendleton, with thanks.

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