Observations Medicine and the Media

Online is not a private space

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d7109 (Published 02 November 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d7109
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. margaret{at}margaretmccartney.com

The banter of the doctors’ mess may have moved to Twitter, but now patients and the media can listen in too, writes Margaret McCartney

A recent news story has been that doctors combine slang and cynicism when talking about patients. Yes, we moan and grump and bitch about our work, our patients, and our managers. But of course there is no news in this: ever since the US psychiatrist Samuel Shem told the world that “gomers” were frail elderly people who should “get out of my emergency room” in his 1978 book The House of God, the public has been aware that doctors are not always complimentary about their patients when behind closed doors—or pseudonyms. Since then there have been numerous anonymous columns in newspapers and the medical press, as well as books written by doctors about their work and patients.

More recently bloggers and tweeters have taken up writing about the practice of contemporary medicine, which is where the Daily Mail comes in. “Birthing sheds, the cabbage patch, and madwives,” it headlined, outlining a recent online row about whether a doctor was wise to use these terms on a Twitter account …

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