Letters

Cheating in medical school

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.311.6998.193b (Published 15 July 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:193
  1. Melvyn H Brooks
  1. General practitioner Tel Shalom, Karkur, Israel

    Cheating continues on through career EDITOR,—Frank J Leavitt's personal view concerns a first year medical student found cheating at Beer Sheva University.1 As a general practitioner I would take Leavitt to task over the three examples that cause him concern about dishonesty and his fear for the medical future of this student. “Perhaps he will lie to help a patient friend to take a holiday and call it sick leave”; but all practising doctors have falsified sick notes. What does one write on the certificate when a tired mother of four is in obvious need of a rest for a few days—“washed out,” “prevention of child abuse,” or some similar phrase? It is far kinder and, I think, correct to write “physical fatigue” or “headache.” And what about neglecting to report an infectious disease? I suppose from time to time we all do this, most probably because we do not know the exact diagnosis at the time of the consultation. Often it is only later, sometimes months later, that the diagnosis is confirmed, and I (we?) on occasions forget the official notification. My biggest criticism of Leavitt is his last example of falsifying death certificates. In Israel, for religious and cultural reasons, postmortem examinations are extremely rare. The short-comings of the cause of death as written on the death certificates are well known.2 3 Sometimes they are pure fabrication. Every doctor makes an educated guess, which he or she hopes is near to the truth when no result of a postmortem examination is available. I suggest Leavitt thinks again.

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