Cheating at medical school

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.322.7281.296 (Published 03 February 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:296

Anonymous letter should have been consigned to the bin

  1. S A Spencer, senior lecturer in paediatrics, Keele University. (andy_spencer@hotmail.com)
  1. North Staffordshire Hospital, Stoke on Trent ST4 6QG
  2. Wittering's Health Centre, East Wittering, West Sussex PO20 8BH
  3. University College London Medical School, London WC1E 6BT
  4. Friends Ward (Box 309), Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge CB2 2QQ
  5. McCusker Glaucoma Unit, Lions Eye Institute, Nedlands 6009, Western Australia
  6. Surrey and Sussex healthcare NHS Trust, Crawley, West Sussex RH11 7DH
  7. Countess of Chester Hospital, Chester CH2 1BL
  8. Liverpool Hospital, Liverpool, New South Wales 2170, Australia
  9. Department of Histopathology, Royal Free Hospital, London NW3 2QG
  10. Department of Child Health, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow G3 8SJ
  11. London E3 3HE
  12. BMJ

    EDITOR—I was disappointed to read Smith's editorial on cheating at medical school.1 Trial by media has become a sign of the times, but I had hoped that the professional journal of the medical profession would rise above such sensationalism. It is easy for us all to be filled with righteous indignation about the cheating of a student, but we do not know all the circumstances, and I hope that adherence to confidentiality means that we never will.

    The appropriate authority dealt with the issue, and I believe that it is nobody else's business. What right has the media to question a judgment based on facts when they do not have all the facts at their disposal? In any event, I wonder about the motives of the student who exposed this lapse by one of his or her colleagues anonymously.

    Of course doctors must have integrity, but it is wrong to assume that a person lacks integrity on the basis of one incident. After all, who can affirm that they have never once been dishonest in their entire career? Hopefully, we learn from our mistakes and aim to do better in the future.

    Smith says that justice is not a private matter and calls for exposure. I think that exposure has little to do with justice and much more to do with selling newspapers. Public opinion is more influenced by the media slant or spin than the facts of the case. How often do tabloid newspapers treat us to full exposure of the life of person who has been accused of a crime well before any trial has taken place? Where is the justice in that? We are in serious danger of engendering a situation in which the fear of publicity is such that decisions made by responsible people will …

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