Soundings author apologises

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.331.7528.1340-b (Published 01 December 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1340
  1. Colin Douglas, doctor and novelist
  1. Edinburgh

    E-DITOR—To quote a fellow Soundings columnist from a few years back, “I'm in trouble this week, and deservedly so.”Two weeks ago I tackled a sensitive issue in an insensitive way: writing—on the basis of a range of observations over the years, but no very deep scholarship—about issues that may arise for and around people in medicine with Asperger's syndrome.1

    A series of rapid responses have made clear a number of things: that quite a few people—with and without Asperger's, within and beyond medicine—were seriously offended; that the tone of the piece—at once flippant and somewhat glacial—was a major source of the offence caused; and that anything less than appropriately professional and compassionate reference to any disability is unacceptable, in Soundings columns as elsewhere.2 On reflection, therefore, there are no excuses: this was a column to apologise for, and I am more than happy to apologise for it.

    I learnt other things too: that the sensitivities around any form of autism are such that all comment must—quite reasonably—be carefully and sensitively phrased; that there are people with Asperger's in medicine who are doing very nicely, and I am pleased to have heard from them; and that some people with Asperger's call themselves Aspies (whereas non-autistic folk are labelled, for better or worse, neurotypicals).

    I find myself now not only apologetic, but interested, more sympathetic than I was, and wanting also to know more about the topic I addressed. Are there studies, and if so what do they tell us? Is career guidance available, and is it useful? And is there a support group, and if not why not? But it would have been far better to have got there without causing offence; and, for any offence I have caused along the way, once more may I say frankly that I am sorry.


    • Competing interests None declared


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