Views & Reviews Personal View

The title “Doctor” is an anachronism that disrespects patients

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h6240 (Published 25 November 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6240
  1. Ashley Graham Kennedy, assistant professor of philosophy and assistant professor of clinical biomedical science (secondary), Florida Atlantic University, 5353 Parkside Drive, Jupiter, FL 33458, USA
  1. kennedya{at}fau.edu

The deference it promotes is incompatible with patients being equal partners in their own care

Medical titles reinforce a clinical hierarchy and frame the physician-patient relationship as a deferential one, which is hardly appropriate in person centered care.

A while ago I spent some time shadowing hospital doctors. On one of my shifts, a woman was brought to the emergency department. A physician entered the patient’s room and introduced himself in the usual way.

“Hello, Ms Smith,” he said, “I’m Dr Jones. I will be taking care of you.” The woman visibly stiffened after hearing this introduction. This seemed odd, until I heard her reply: “Well, isn’t that nice? I’m Dr Smith,” she said. It turned out that she held a doctorate in clinical psychology.

Treated with respect

The woman’s point was clear: she introduced herself to the …

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