Between aspiration and reality

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 28 September 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:718
  1. Polly Toynbee, political and social commentator.
  1. Guardian, London

    New guidance for medical schools has recently been issued by the General Medical Council. Polly Toynbee thinks the document has been written to refute the old complaints about arrogant, god-like consultants. She says that if new doctors come out of medical school imbued with the ethos of the guidance then we might expect a new generation of hypersensitive and thoughtful doctors, but she warns that human nature is bound to intervene

    What makes the perfect modern doctor? The General Medical Council has drawn up new guidance for medical schools as a framework on which to base their curriculums and assessments. Tomorrow's Doctors (see is an idealistic compendium of the best qualities every new doctor should acquire. If medical schools could indeed turn out doctors moulded to this template, then we should expect a new generation of scholar saints and gentle scientists—wise, knowledgeable, sensitive, collegiate, humble, and good beyond imagining.

    It is in the nature of every profession to set itself an ideal character and attempt to impose it as best it can on new entrants. It is also in the nature of humanity to fail that ideal most of the time. Visit any training establishment—of barristers, solicitors, police, nurses, or even journalists (a low trade, hardly a profession)—and you will find the most exalted sentiments imparted to …

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