Looking Back

The twenty-krone piece

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.323.7327.1474 (Published 22 December 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1474
  1. Frederick Treves
  1. Reprinted from the reminiscences of Frederick Treves

    Monetary endeavour is not considered proper for doctors. They are expected to set examples of noble mindedness, and therefore money should not be the key element from which they derive confidence, strength, and motivation. All physicians who have had grateful patients will agree that nothing is more fulfilling than sincere gratitude and an appreciation for making some contribution, however small, to the satisfactory outcome of an illness. Every one of us would also agree that such human qualities cannot possibly be replaced by money. But money can sometimes be important. In his reminiscences, Sir Frederick Treves, an outstanding London surgeon from around the turn of the 20th century, tells the following remarkable story, which we ought to keep in mind whenever we consider enduring values within our profession.1

    More than once in speaking at public meetings on behalf of hospitals I have alluded to my much valued possession—a twenty-krone piece—and have employed it as an illustration of the gratitude of the hospital patient.

    The subject of this incident was a Norwegian sailor about fifty years of age, a tall, good-featured man with the blue eyes of his country and a face tanned by sun and by salt winds to the colour of weathered oak. His hair and his beard were grey, which made him look older than he was. He had been serving for three years as an ordinary seaman on an English sailing ship and spoke English perfectly. During …

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