Observations Life and Death

Adverse reactions

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a2516 (Published 12 November 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2516
  1. Iona Heath, general practitioner, London
  1. iona.heath{at}dsl.pipex.com

    In a true democracy, doctors and the government must clash from time to time

    The relation between politicians and doctors is meant to be tricky: too much agreement between them should always be regarded as highly suspect.

    Doctors have privileged access to the lives of people from all walks of society, and every working day they listen to the stories of those lives, hearing about hopes and disappointments and seeing the scars inflicted by cruelties perpetrated at every level from the domestic to the global. Doctors see at first hand how our society favours some members at the expense of others; they see the extent to which hope and opportunity are unevenly distributed and how the chances and choices of far too many people are curtailed. Doctors are made aware of the defects in society, and this often brings them into conflict with politicians, who are burdened with responsibility for the way society functions. Of course, politicians also have direct access to the public through the tradition of the constituency “surgery”; but while the doctor must always prioritise the needs of the …

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