Observations

Junior doctors’ strike: which side’s reach exceeds its grasp?

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i2237 (Published 21 April 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i2237
  1. Andy Cowper, editor, Health Policy Insight
  1. andycowper{at}hotmail.com

Both sides need to resolve this dispute but neither side recognises this enough to give some way, says Andy Cowper

Schrödinger’s cat is a quantum physics paradox devised by physicist Erwin Schrödinger, in which a cat is shut in a sealed box with a vial of poison, a radiation detector, and a radioactive source. If radioactivity is detected from a single atom randomly decaying, the poison is released and the cat dies. Quantum mechanics implies that after some time, the cat must be simultaneously alive and dead. By opening the box, empirical observation will inevitably reveal that the cat is either alive or dead.

The escalation of the dispute over the junior doctors’ contract into full blown industrial action next week means that one random act of decay—of avoidable patient harm or death—threatens to open a Schrödinger’s box of tricks. If the strike leads to identifiable harm, the empirical court of public opinion will rule on whether the claims for the moral high …

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