Dr Peter Saunders

BMJ publishes Secular Medical Forum ‘advertorial’

Dr Peter Saunders was, until December 2018, the Chief Executive of CMF. Prior to that he was a general surgeon in New Zealand, Kenya and the UK. He is now the CEO of the International Christian Medical and Dental Association (ICMDA), a global movement uniting national Christian medical and dental organisations in over 60 countries,
The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of CMF.

On 30 November the British Medical Journal published an article by Colin Brewer, ‘a director of the Secular Medical Forum’ , titled ‘Secularism needs a distinctive medical voice’.

The 900 word one page article, which appeared in the BMJ’s ‘personal view’ column, and claimed to be ‘not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed’, is essentially an advertorial for Brewer’s organisation.

It depicts atheist doctors as a historically persecuted minority and claims that they are ‘still vilified by religious leaders’ who ‘typically suppress dissent’ and ‘forbid fundamental criticism of their sacred texts’.

Today (6 December) I have had my Rapid Response to the article published by the BMJ. Here it is:

The Christian contribution to medicine is considerable

Tue, 2011-12-06 09:58

In his full page advertorial for the ‘Secular Medical Fellowship’, Colin Brewer gives an inaccurate and highly selective overview of the relationship between faith and medicine and neglects to mention that Christian doctors motivated by Jesus Christ’s teaching and example have been profoundly influential in shaping healthcare’s history.

Many of medicine’s pioneers were men and women of faith: Pare, Pasteur, Lister, Paget, Barnado, Jenner, Simpson, Sydenham, Osler, Skudder, Livingstone and many more.

Christians remain active in all fields of medicine today but particularly in AIDS care and education, drug rehabilitation, child health, palliative care, relief of poverty and in service to the developing world. In a recent survey, to which over 1,000 members of Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) responded, 230 respondents had served long term in 48 countries around the world, 74% with a mission or church organization, and 459 had made short term visits (<6 months) to 98 countries, most commonly to train and teach (1).

Although respecting the authority of the Bible, CMF’s 4,000 doctor and 1,000 medical student members are not ‘text worshippers’ but rather, like 2.3 billion other of the world’s inhabitants, worship God, the creator and sustainer of the universe, who we believe revealed himself in the historical person of Jesus Christ.

Christ’s dynamic entry into first century Palestine was marked by miraculous healing of many illnesses for which even today there are no known treatments. But along with his compassion to restore health he brought a message of healing of broken relationships – between human beings, between human beings and the planet and most crucially between human beings and God.

In his historical account of those events, Luke, probably the first ever Christian physician, tells us that Jesus sent his followers out ‘to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick’ (Luke 9:2). He is still sending them out today – to attend to the spiritual and physical needs of a suffering world.

BMJ readers who are interested in a more accurate and informative account of the Christian contribution to medicine are welcome to peruse the footnoted articles (2,3,4) on the CMF website, most of which were published in the Millennium edition of our journal Triple Helix (5).

1. Survey of CMF Graduate Members about International Work in Resource-poor Settings (

2. May P. Jesus – the Pivot of History and Medical Care (

3. Parry E. Luke – the Physician’s Gospel (

4. Beal-Preston R. The Christian Contribution to Medicine (

5. Triple Helix Millennium Edition (


Posted by Dr Peter Saunders
CMF Chief Executive



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