Doctor Allegedly Fired for Sending Prayer Email to Colleagues Loses Second Appeal

A British doctor who was fired from a hospital in England's West Midlands because of a prayer he sent to coworkers has lost his second appeal for wrongful termination this week.

Dr. David Drew, 65, had tried to convince an appeals court that he was fired from his post as a consultant pediatrician at Walsall Healthcare NHS (National Healthcare System) Trust in 2010 because he had been acting as a whistleblower against budget cuts that he argued put patient safety at risk. The hospital and two employment appeal tribunals argued, however, that Drew had been fired because he had refused to conform to the hospital's guidelines regarding religion.

"I am naturally disappointed that the employment appeal tribunal's decision has gone against me. I will meet my legal team this week for advice," Drew said in a statement Wednesday.

The incident began in April 2009, when Drew, who had a spotless 37-year career at the hospital, emailed a 16th-century prayer by St. Ignatius Loyola to his colleagues, hoping the prayer would be motivational. The doctor, who also served as a clinical director at the hospital, included a note with the prayer that read: "I find this a personal inspiration in my frail imperfect efforts to serve my patients, their families and our department." The title of the prayer was "To give and not to count the costs."

A hospital review panel investigated Drew's email, and in March 2010 advised the doctor to "keep his religious beliefs to himself" while working at the hospital. Drew allegedly refused to comply with the review panel's recommendation, and therefore, the hospital claims, he was fired from his position for gross misconduct and insubordination.

Drew sought an appeal by an employment tribunal in Birmingham, where his case was thrown out, and then again at an appeal tribunal in London, where it was found that the doctor could not prove he was wrongfully terminated.

The doctor now argues that his emailed prayer served only as a "smokescreen" for the real reason he was fired, saying that he was actually fired from his job because he was a whistleblower to the hospital's drastic budget cuts that he felt were endangering the lives of patients. 

"My case was never about the religion, it was about the fact the hospital wouldn't listen to its most senior pediatrician telling them they were cutting costs to the bone and putting patient safety at risk," Drew said in a recent interview with the Daily Mail.

"It's all about whistleblowing," Drew added, saying some nurses and doctors have become too scared to voice their concerns about budget cuts because it is seen as a "career-ending move."

Drew added to the Express & Star that although he is disappointed with the dismissal of his case, he is pleased that the country's health committee has changed its policy regarding cases relating to a doctor's concerns over patient care. "In the week I received the judgment, the House of Commons Health Select Committee advised that cases of doctors reporting honestly-held concerns about quality of patient care should not be dealt with through employment tribunals," Drew said.

"It will be more difficult for trusts to treat whistleblowers in this way in future. I am grateful for the support I have received from my colleagues on that point," he added.