Fillers One hundred years ago

Medical advice gratis

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 14 July 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:158

As newspapers, from the Times downwards, are seeking for outside attractions in order to maintain their circulation, it is not surprising to find that Answers announces that it is ready to place at the disposal of its readers in return for one year's subscription the right to consult “our staff of doctors” who are said to be part of “a fully equipped staff of brilliant specialists in every field of human activity.” This is not quite so cheap as a gift with a pound of tea, but yet is an economical way of obtaining medical advice if we consider that the annual subscription amounts only to 4s. 6d., and that there is no limit to the number of times each subscriber may seek advice, the only drawback being that “consultations” are through the post. We should like to know who are the medical practitioners who render assistance in this way and to what class in the profession they belong. Consultations by post are unscientific and ought to be condemned by medical opinion, as the only information upon which the recipient of the letter acts is the statement of the patient, unless this is supplemented by secretions sent for examination, but even then the risks of mistakes are too great to make the practice safe. There is a more serious aspect of the question which should not be overlooked. Although the practitioners who undertake this work are not advertised by name, the system is in effect advertising for practice, and all patients who come to them through the newspaper are obtained by advertising; therefore it would be in accordance with the principles upon which the General Medical Council has acted if such practice were to be regarded with the same disfavour as that of the Medical Aid Societies which advertise and canvass to procure patients. (BMJ 1905;ii:1472)

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