Views & Reviews Personal View

Should the spectacle of surgery be sold to the highest bidder?

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d237 (Published 26 January 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d237
  1. Simon Chapman, professor of public health, University of Sydney
  1. simon.chapman{at}sydney.edu.au

Recently my band, the Original Faux Pas, donated its services to a cancer fundraising event. The event was a huge success, raising more than $A50 000 (£30 000; €37 000; $US50 000), with about 260 people digging deep for auctioned items donated by local businesses. Among the items was the opportunity for two to attend an operation being performed by a neurosurgeon.

Bidding was spirited as the auctioneer barked out the virtues of this exclusive opportunity, and the winning bidders paid something like $A1600, presumably to watch someone having brain surgery. I once bid for an opportunity to have dinner with a senior politician so I could get in his ear. For good causes sports stars often offer games of golf or tennis, and musicians give backstage passes. But somehow this seemed rather different. Two medical members of my band pulled perplexed faces as the item appeared between autographed football jumpers.

In the 19th century surgeons performed their tasks in rooms where limited seats were available for …

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