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Core values: doctor or everyman?

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 13 July 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:120
  1. Jane Macnaughtou

    Doctors have recently been grappling with their changing role in society. To this end the first summit meeting of the profession since 1961 was held in November 1994 and a consultation document, Core Values for the Medical Profession in the 21st Century, was produced. This was intended to stimulate debate about the future of medicine but seems to have provoked little comment. Why?

    The problem stems from the question that the conference set itself: “What are the core values for the medical profession in the 21st century?” This has encouraged the production of a list of good activities and attributes which might be associated with the practice of medicine but are not inherent to it or defining of it. A better question might have been “What is the good doctor good at?” An example of the vagueness attached to the document's broad central question is the list of basic and ancient virtues, which are given as “commitment, caring, compassion, integrity, competence, spirit of inquiry, confidentiality, responsibility, and advocacy.” These read like a list of good things which, we might hope, would be associated with any upright citizen, not just a member of the medical profession.

    Why does the profession so readily adopt the moral high ground, and why, indeed, is it encouraged …

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