Views & Reviews Medical Classics

Profession of Medicine

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 06 March 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:563
  1. Liam Donaldson, chief medical officer, Department of Health, London
  1. liam.donaldson{at}

    The fundamental and consistent criterion that distinguishes a profession from other occupations is its autonomy, a condition that is not absolute but that depends for its existence on the tolerance and protection of the state. Eliot Freidson, a giant of medical sociology, drew this conclusion as the central theme of his comprehensive analysis of the nature of professions.

    For those who work regularly with medical professional bodies or with doctors in managed care environments, Freidson’s monograph, now nearly 40 years old, rings so many bells as to be positively …

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