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Doctors and medical students in India should stop wearing white coats

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h3855 (Published 21 July 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h3855
  1. Edmond Fernandes, postgraduate, Department of Community Medicine, Yenepoya Medical College, Yenepoya University, Mangalore, Karnataka, India
  1. edmondvirgo{at}gmail.com

Evidence shows that long sleeved coats facilitate the transmission of infection in hospitals, leading to avoidable harm and cost to patients, says Edmond Fernandes

Although emphasis on evidence based medicine is increasing, we still selectively tackle issues that we like and collectively ignore the ones that we don’t—such as doctors wearing white coats.

Historically, long sleeved coats, popularly called aprons, were worn by laboratory scientists. But in the 19th century, after scientists showed that many doctors’ remedies were useless, doctors started wearing them. They adopted the colour white to symbolise purity and goodness, hoping to improve their damaged reputation.1

In 1975 Joseph P Kriss, former professor of medicine and radiology at Stanford University, wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine, “The physician’s dress should convey to even his most anxious patient a sense of seriousness of purpose that helps to provide reassurance and confidence that his or her complaints will be dealt with competently.

“True, the white coat is only a symbol of this attitude, but it has also the additional practical virtues of …

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