Over the years, mystery has surrounded medical freemasonry. I make no assertions about how freemasonry influences medicine as it is an aspect that has been poorly understood due to the lack of information. The grave-vines of medicine are filled with tales of freemasonry influence. Most cannot be proven. Rumours include, methods of obtaining senior positions, maintaining the establishment's interests, using mental illness as a way to stigmatise those who rock the status quo, corruption in medicine and influencing outcomes of inquiries or complaints. One of the hottest rumours is the alleged influence of freemasonry in the Bristol Inquiry . It is important to understand that none of this is evidence based. They are a summary of discussions that take place throughout the medical profession.
Freemasons would argue that they are unfairly criticised. The United Grand Lodge of England states as follows by way of an explanation
"Freemasonry is one of the world's oldest secular fraternal societies. The following information is intended to explain Freemasonry as it is practised under the United Grand Lodge of England, which administers Lodges of Freemasons in England and Wales and in many places overseas.
Freemasonry is a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual values. Its members are taught its precepts (moral lessons and self-knowledge) by a series of ritual dramas - a progression of allegorical two-part plays which are learnt by heart and performed within each Lodge - which follow ancient forms, and use stonemasons' customs and tools as allegorical guides.
Freemasonry instils in its members a moral and ethical approach to life: it seeks to reinforce thoughtfulness for others, kindness in the community, honesty in business, courtesy in society and fairness in all things. Members are urged to regard the interests of the family as paramount but, importantly, Freemasonry also teaches and practices concern for people, care for the less fortunate and help for those in need"
Freemasonry keeps its doors firmly shut to the outside world. Rumours infiltrate through the medical profession, through doctor's messes and behind closed doors. For perceived victims of freemasonry, there appears to be an impression that they are left fighting unknown shadows. Those who outline events regarding freemasonry are generally regarded as paranoid conspiracy theorists. That may be convenient for freemasonry but in reality, the history is peppered with secret societies, the use of influence and the need to achieve maximum power and control. This is accompanied by unaccountability. The victims' tales have never been tested, investigated or analysed.
As with all secret societies, we may never know the actual truth about freemasonry. The BBC featured an interesting article on freemasonry. It quotes a Select Committee as stating
"We believe that nothing so much undermines public confidence in public institutions as the knowledge that some public servants are members of a secret society, one of whose aims is mutual self-advancement."
Freemasonry in public life and its influence in various sectors of our community have been detailed by the Home Affairs Committee Parliament . One can only assume that its influence in medicine is similar to other aspects of public life detailed within this report.
The medical protection is well protected from scrutiny. There are established figures who attend inquiries and a method of "selective" investigation that is often carried out. The Bristol and Shipman Inquiries both dabbled in outlining the secret influences within the profession but failed to establish any links to freemasonry. Dame Janet Smith referred to it as "Club Culture". . It leaves members of the public questioning what this club culture actually is.
Progress after the Home Affairs Committee Report was limited. Jack Straw reversed the requirement to disclose freemasonry.
His ministerial statement read as follows
The United Grand Lodge of England made representations in May. They drew attention to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Grande Oriente d'Italia di Palazzo Guistiniani v Italy (no 1) and Grande Oriente d'Italia di Palazzo Guistiniani v Italy (no 2) and indicated that they might seek judicially to review the application of the policy to the judiciary. In the light of my consideration of those representations I decided to review the policy. As a result of this review we have decided to end the current policy of requiring applicants for judicial office to declare membership of the freemasons. The review of the policy operating since 1998 has shown no evidence of impropriety or malpractice within the judiciary as a result of a judge being a freemason and in my judgment, therefore, it would be disproportionate to continue the collection or retention of this information"
Of course, there has never been an inquiry into the influence of freemasonry in the legal system. The people affected are often too traumatised and even when complaints are made, they may be essentially discarded. The same traits are applicable in medicine. No one actually knows how freemasonry has affected health professionals and the public. The most we can do is present an evidence based catalogue of associations to freemasonry in the hope that the public are better informed. Freemasonry in medicine will probably remain a closely guarded secret. Those with the power to instigate inquiries may be eager to avert public gaze away from scrutiny.
The Foundation Lodge states "Over the years many of the towns leading 'personalities' have been Freemasons such as MPs, mayors, solicitors, doctors and a range of professional men. Dr Edward Jenner was a member of the Lodge" This summarises how prevalent freemasonry is.
From Stephen Knight's - The Brotherhood, a leading investigation into Freemasonry
"Eagle's [Robert] investigation was centred on Masonry in the medical profession, which is prevalent, especially among general practitioners and the more senior hospital doctors. Hospital Lodges prove useful meeting places for medical staff and administrators. Most main hospitals, including all the London teaching hospitals, have their own Lodges. According to Sir Edward Tuckwell, former Serjeant-Surgeon to the Queen, and Lord Porritt, Chairman of the African Medical and Research Foundation, both Freemasons and both consultants to the Royal Masonic Hospital, the Lodges of the teaching hospitals draw their members from hospital staff and GPs connected with the hospital in question. Tuckwell and Porritt are members of the Lodges attached to the teaching hospitals where they trained and later worked - Porritt at St Mary's, Paddington (St Mary's Lodge No 63), which has about forty active members out of a total of 300, half of them general practitioners; and Tuckwell at St Bartholomew's (Rahere Lodge No 2546), with about thirty active brethren. Other London hospital Lodges include King's College (No 2973); London Hospital, Whitechapel (No 2845); St Thomas's (No 142) and Moorfields (No 4949).
Many of the most senior members of the profession are Freemasons, especially those actively involved with the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons, which has benefited from a massive £600,000 trust fund set up by the Brotherhood for medical research. Masonry does seem to have had an influence over certain appointments. Tuckwell emphatically denied that membership of the Brotherhood ever helped any doctor's career, telling Eagle that there was not the slightest truth in the rumour '. .. whereas Lord Porritt more circumspectly said that "it would be hard to deny that some people have been helped"'.
Although the governing bodies of most major hospitals are formed largely of Freemasons, the one overriding consideration in medicine, at least in the non-administrative areas, seems to be placing the best person in the job, whether Mason or otherwise. This is perhaps best illustrated by the staffing of the Brotherhood's own hospital. The Royal Masonic Hospital is not staffed exclusively by Freemasons, although most of its consultants are Brothers.
Chief executive of the hospital Raymond Mole says that Masonry is not a criterion for appointment. The only qualification demanded is that a Royal Masonic consultant be a consultant at a teaching hospital. Robert Eagle again:
. .. registrars at the hospital are not usually Masons . . . one of the few women doctors to work at the Royal Masonic Hospital told me that during the several years she held the job she heard very little mention of the subject.' Obviously no one asked me to join; but I had no idea whether even my closest colleague there was a Mason.' As she subsequently became a consultant at the hospital she does not seem to have been the victim of Masonic misogyny either"
I found a fascinating magazine called the Masonic Quarterly Magazine. It stated as follows:-
"He went on: "Perhaps His Royal Highness's most significant role in relation to the Royal College of Surgeons of England is as Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Freemasons of England.
"The College has a long and special relationship with Freemasonry in England with the advancement of surgery, owing much to the generosity and constant support of Freemasons, who have contributed money and time to the College over many years.
"His Royal Highness's predecessor as Grand Master, Lord Scarbrough, launched a charitable appeal in February 1966 to mark the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Grand Lodge of Freemasons"
In the year 2000, the Independent published an article about the links between the NHS and freemasonry. .
"There are concerns within Whitehall that the GMC may have been slow to act against doctors because of a Freemason network within the NHS"
It went onto state "There are an estimated 8,000 masonic lodges in England and Wales. A number of leading hospitals, including the Royal London, have lodges, but exact figures are elusive and few doctors openly admit to being mason"
By 2001, the BBC reported as follows "General Medical Council members have been forced to reveal whether they are freemasons. And their details have now been published on a register of interests, which is open to public scrutiny".. As usual, the General Medical Council found itself locked into a corner and having to maintain public confidence.
The BBC went onto say "The register lists Sir Sandy Macara, the former British Medical Association (BMA) chair; Dr Simon Fradd, a negotiator for the BMA's GPs' committee; Dr Ronald Zeegen, a consultant physician and gastroenterologist and lay member Mr James Campbell Morton as freemasons"
He also made a starring appearance in the Bristol Inquiry .
In a statement, it states
"In addition, Professor Sir Alexander Macara though constrained by his membership of the GMC and his office as chairman of the BMA Council was kept fully informed of all the discussions that took place"
. Macara pops up at various parts of the Bristol Inquiry.
The BBC article went onto say "Dr Richard Coleman, a GP and ex-GMC member, first raised concerns about freemasonry a number of years ago. He told BBC News Online that in the past there had been concerns that freemasonry connections could have played a part in influencing the outcome in one particular case. But Dr Coleman was very clear that he was not referring to any decision made by any of the freemasons named in this register"
Dr Coleman has since disappeared into oblivion. Coleman left a number of his footprints through medicine. An interesting catalogue of events of the past is listed in his testimony outlined here . It makes interesting reading in more ways than one. It also outlines the culture within the General Medical Council and their rather comedic outlook on life. Finlay Scott was rumoured to have said " transparency was like a greenhouse - you could look in but not enter the room"
"We don't make any checks to establish if a doctor who is appearing at a GMC hearing is a freemason. The doctor is not obliged to answer a direct question on this point; the panellists would only know the doctor was a freemason if he was personally acquainted with them. If they were so acquainted, the panellist would be expected to declare a conflict of interest".
In conclusion, all that is required is for a doctor to be a mason and for a panellist not to declare they are a mason. The end result may well be advantageous. The same principles can be applied to scientology, the British National Party or any other society. Interestingly, the GMC does not believe it has to declare its employees' interests. The GMC is linked to the British Medical Association in many ways. For a start, many of their medical members are also BMA members.
The British Medical Association [BMA] is a trade union. It commands prime position in the medical profession and despite criticisms against it during the Shipman Trial , it represents doctors and provides advice to those that develop health policy. The British Medical Association is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and often remains secretive with its closed website and its well honed press releases. Some interesting aspects of the British Medical Association can be found on the internet.
Historically, from the Lodge's own newsletter is as follows
"A photograph from W/Bro Brian Hamilton, depicting Motherland Lodge's Centenary Dinner in 1932, many of whose members belonged to the British Medical Association"
In 1947, the BMJ itself featured the following sentence [interesting comparison here]
"Fall that, the B.M.A. is the freemasonry of medical life, and those who regard its powers as those of a trade union or of a sort pertaining to the General Medical Council are misinformed or mischievous. To the average medical man the B.M.A., like freemasonry, offers cultural and professional advantages and associations outside the actual organization and duties of his calling. That I believe was the intention of the founder. The B.M.A., like freemasonry in some parts of the world, has inevitably become involved in politics, but it should not hold more than a watching brief. Take for example the present relationship between the doctors, the N.H.I., and the B.M.A"
In summary, we can conclude that freemasonry is probably involved in most aspects of medicine, UK medical policy and serves to maintain the establishment's interests. The Freemasons would argue that they have contributed much to medicine. Those who have been victims of freemasonry are unlikely to have their voices heard in an environment where secret societies are not held accountable or scrutinised. Overall, freemasonry will exist in the future without scrutiny or transparency.
In a transparent and democratic society, perhaps someone should suggest an independent inquiry into freemasonry. Perhaps the Health Select Committee could look into it. Or perhaps, the Health Select Committee will shy away from disclosing their own links to freemasonry. I am quite positive - if freemasons have nothing to hide, they will welcome an inquiry into its role in medicine. Freemasons should look upon an inquiry as a way to achieve vindication or accountability - depending which side the evidence tilts. Of course, life is never as simple as that when establishment interests are at stake.